Learn How To Teach Salsa dance

The different teaching styles

There are teaching 3 styles you can use to teach salsa dance: Each style has advantages and disadvantages.

Your Personality

It is important to be true to your own personality when teaching. This will enthuse your students with your own passion for the dance. If you are not true to your own personality, the students will notice that there is a lack of authenticity in what you are doing and saying and they may not entrust in you their confidence because of this. The teacher must also consider the setting in which they want to teach salsa and also the audience. If you are teaching in a secondary school and your audience are young people aged under 16, your teaching style may have to be different to that of a group who are all over the age of 18 at a night club. The expectations, behaviour and most importantly, the law relating to the students will be different and may require a different teaching style.

Which style of salsa do you want to teach?

1 Cuban style focuses on basic steps with good body movement and interpretation of the music. It has been said that Cuban style is more about freedom and having fun. The author believes that all styles of social dance should be fun and it is down to the teacher to make it interesting and fun for the students regardless of the style of dance.

2 LA style is about the dancers’ attitude, and flashy spins and dips.

3 New York style is about being always on the beat and the follower strictly following the leader. Technique and timing are paramount in this style.

4 Colombian style is very fast and acrobatic. It requires a high degree of fitness and coordination. The Colombian style is based around swing, jazz and Cuban Colombia footwork also called Pachanga.

There are others styles of salsa but the Cuban, LA and New York styles are most prevalent with the Colombian style as a well known but less commercial style of salsa.

Different Teaching Styles You Can Use To Engage Your Students.

Authoritarian: this is also known as autocratic and dictatorial. The teacher tells the student what, when, how, with who and where to do the steps and moves. The student doesn’t have much choice in the execution of what they are doing. They can only decide to follow or not to follow the instructions from the teacher.

Advantages: The students have less chance of getting it wrong if they are following exactly what the teacher is instructing. There is not much room for making mistakes. This teaching style demands the attention and respect of the student.

Disadvantages: The students don’t have a chance to absorb the information in their own way and in their own time. Students might need less structure and more thinking time. The teacher may be too demanding and possibly lose the students’ respect.

Laissez-faire: The teacher allows the students a lot of freedom to experiment with different ways of learning and the students are given different ways of learning the steps and moves. The teacher is relaxed and is not too concerned if the student doesn’t understand straight away.

Advantages: The students have a chance to absorb the information in their own way and in their own time. There is flexibility of learning.

Disadvantages: The students don’t always respect a teacher who lets them do more or less what they want to do. The students may be confused because of the lack of direction.

Democratic: The teachers ask everyone what they would like to learn and gives them choice. In this teaching style, the teacher frequently asks the students opinion on what they want to learn.

Advantages: The students feel part of the learning process and feel empowered. The student can choose what best suits their learning style.

Disadvantages: The students may not want to make any decisions and might prefer full instructions from the teacher or other students. Students may just not vote for what they want and opt out.

Effective communication

Teaching styles vary but you will need good communication skills to be an effective teacher. The following qualities are important for teaching:
Authenticity/ vulnerability
Thinking fast and sometimes speaking fast
Tell interesting stories
Clarify points with energy
Don’t pause with ums and ahs
Dress appropriately
Be fluid in your speaking
Be creative
Speak with conviction
Be competent
Use good visuals
Be a risk taker when necessary
Good eye contact
An authoritative voice

Learning Styles

The different learning styles of students: You must take into account the learning styles of the students in class, everyone is different: Here are 4 different learning styles:

Visual: learn best by watching and following directly without much explanation or instruction.

Audio: need to be told exactly what to do and need to have the music on as they do it to learn properly.

Read/ write: like the moves written down so they can think about them and remember them.

Kinaesthetic: have to do the moves and feel the sensation of the move before it becomes second nature. People with a strong kinaesthetic ability are normally best suited to dance because body movement is almost entirely about the physical feeling.

Starting your teaching practice

The Rules and Regulations, Teaching Practice Liability Insurance and Health and Safety

The rules and regulations for teaching dance are tightening every year. The law regarding teaching any person in a public place requires the following: Teaching practice liability insurance , to obtain this you require a qualification and or membership to a professional training body . To obtain a qualification and membership of a professional body you require training and knowledge of your subject and practical and theoretical class management skills. Some of these skills can only be obtained by experience.

Depending on where you teach you may require music licences, PPL – Phonographic Performance Limited and PRS – Performing Rights Society .

If you teach for the school or education system you will require Child protection training. The NSPCC “ aims to support individual and organisational learning and aim to keep children safe. They do this by providing a range of services for health, social services, local councils, education, voluntary groups and Child protection police checks”. You should draw up a child protection policy. You should refer to the Children Act 1991 and its guidelines. It is an obligation on all teachers to keep records of all students including the date of birth, address and any medical conditions. This register must also be used in emergency evacuation procedures. If working with a school as part of the school curriculum, you should inform the Head Teacher of the school of any suspected form of abuse that a child may portray.

First Aid certificates can be obtained at very low cost from the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance Service. http:// www.sja.org.uk/sja/ training-courses.aspx

CRB disclosure applications can be obtained from www.crb.gov.uk they state that ”the current legislation does not allow the self-employed or individuals to apply for a CRB check on themselves”. If you have been asked to apply for a CRB check you will need to speak to the person who asked you to apply as they will be able to provide you with the application form. Standard Disclosure. This is primarily available to anyone working with children or vulnerable adults. Standard Disclosures show current and spent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings held on the Police National Computer. If the post involves working with children or vulnerable adults, the following may also be searched: Protection of Children Act (POCA) List, Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) List.

Umbrella organizations are enlisted to administer the CRB check. A list of these organizations can be found on the www.crb.gov.uk website. The cost of the CRB check is between £ 31 and £ 36 exclusive of the umbrella organizations administration fee which could be between £ 10 and £ 20.


The need for certification

the benefits of being qualified and insured

Anyone that wants to teach dance in the public sector must have a level of certification to say that

the person teaching is a valid teacher. The person must be certified by a professional body to maintain a standard of expertise and professionalism. Once the person is qualified that person may then acquire teaching practice liability insurance for any injury or damages incurred by teaching practice as a result of the teacher. Insurance companies are reluctant to insure dance teachers if they are not qualified because if you are not qualified you are seen as a high risk because you have not proved that you can teach safely or with established knowledge of the subject.

National teaching bodies are: the RSA Royal Society of Arts , The Council for Dance Education and Training ( the national standards body of the professional dance industry), the ( ISTD ) Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing , (IDTA ) International Dance Teachers Association , ( UKA ) United Kingdom Alliance of Professional Teachers of Dancing and Kindred Arts. For teaching in maintained schools you would require the QTS : Qualified Teacher Status.

The topics covered in the Theory part of the UKA course include:

The levels of salsa teaching: student, associate, licentiate, and fellowship.

Qualities of a good teacher: Of the many qualities a good teacher requires patience is the most important. Good communication skills are essential for the success of a teacher.

Preparation for a class: A lesson plan is important if you want to be a good teacher. A plan should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, results-based and time specific. The plan should break down what you want to teach, how long each section should take to complete and what resources you want to use. It should also include your aim and outcome/ objectives for your class. I.e. the students should be able to do the basic mambo and sidestep in time with the music.

Psychology: Are the students psychologically


Functions of the skeleton: 1. Support and strength, 2. attachment for muscle. 3. levers. 4. protection for soft body parts. Movement of the body is brought about by the action of the muscles on the bones, which act as levers. The actions of the muscles consist of:
1 Flexion: bending or decreasing the angle,
2 Extension: bending stretching/ straightening
3 Hyperextension: extension carried beyond the normal range of motion/ anatomical position.
4 Abduction: moving the body part away from the center line, e.g. raising the arm.
5 Adduction: bringing the body part back to the center line, lowering the arm to the side.
6 Supination: raising and turning the body part, rotating upwards and outwards.
7 Pronation: lowering and turning, rotating the body part, downwards and inwards.
8 Rotation: pivoting the body part inwards or outwards around a long axis, rolling the head.
9 Circumduction: a complete circular motion of the body, circling the arm at the shoulder.
10 Eversion: turning the body part outwards, foot.
11 Inversion: turning the body part inwards. Under flexion, you also have dorsiflexion: turning the toes up towards the shins and plantarflexion: pointing the toes.



Materials: You will need a pen and paper to write with. Here is a list of scenarios that you may come across in your teaching practice. Read the scenario and then write out your response to the hypothetical situations.

Your first salsa class: You have decided to teach salsa dancing and you have done all your advertising, hired the studio or bar. You have prepared your music and what you intend to teach. Consider what you would do in each of the following case scenarios.

1: Too many people arrive

Over 60 people turn up and they are all eager beginners wanting to learn how to salsa. However, the room can only hold 40 people. The room is crowded, what do you do?

A: Just continue and hope that no one gets injured.
B: Call your assistant and suspend the class until they arrive.
C: Split the class into 2 and arrange separate classes.

Possible approaches:
A is not advised because of injury risk. B will probably make students frustrated and they are likely to leave before your assistant arrives. Answer C would be the more sensible choice. Ensure that everyone has arrived for the beginners’ class. It often happens that some people don’t read the advertising properly and turn up at the wrong time. Not everyone might be there to take part in the class; some people may have just turned up for the intermediate class at a later time or to watch before deciding to come the next time you teach.

Explain that the room you have can only hold a certain number of people safely. Add that it would be for their benefit that you had a smaller group.

You could split the group into 2 and offer to teach in half hour sessions if the class was supposed to be for 1 hour. Or find out if some people would be interested in returning in the following hour.

If you have an assistant, you could teach or ask that person to demonstrate the moves and steps in the warm up in another room and then you cover when more in depth technique or knowledge is required.

If there is a smaller room, you could induct the students and offer refreshments for them and maybe show some video clips of salsa dancing or demonstrate some of the products you may have for sale.

The final option is to turn people away but offer them some incentive to return and compensation for their wasted time such as a small discount on the next class or on some of your products.

If you decide to do the class with too many people it will result in a lot of complaints from people who will say they can’t see or hear the teacher. Students don’t understand and don’t feel they have a chance to speak in a crowded room. Most importantly for the teacher there could be a health and safety risk in that there is a higher chance people will bump into each other or the fittings and fixtures of the room. The teacher will also not be able to observe and supervise the class properly. This will stop the teacher from doing their job properly. The end result is that less people will take the class because of their frustrations in not learning much.

2: Only 1 person arrives

If only one person turns up to your first class and you have prepared to teach a large class, what do you do?
A: Become frustrated that you spent all the money on advertising and just cancel the class.
B: Continue with the class in a positive mood that you have your first ever customer.
C: Give the student the option of doing a private lesson.

Choice B is the answer more likely to gain long term rewards. C will only work if no one else turns up late, but people normally turn up a few minutes late in public classes. Only one person turning up is not uncommon in new salsa classes. Often people who intend to come simply forget to because the salsa class is not yet part of their routine. Sometimes students who intend to come to salsa don’t do it for many weeks or even months. The teacher should not be put off or frustrated that only one person has arrived to take the class. Your focus should always be a professional one. If the student wants to learn and has travelled to do it then the least a teacher can do is respect the students ‘effort in turning up. The student will be graced with a private lesson at the same price as a group lesson.

When proceeding with a lesson for one person might not prove fruitful. If the class is taking place in a public bar or night club, the student may feel self conscious of the public watching and the bar manager won’t be happy because there won’t be much income from sales of drink at their bar. Also if the teacher is paying for the room hire at e.g. £ 25 and the salsa class costs £ 5, the loss of £ 20 is probably not worth doing a lesson. However if this is a loss that the teacher can bear then the teacher should continue and consider the first class a loss leader. A loss leader is where it is accepted that in the first few weeks a loss will be made. Once the first month has passed and everyone who has taken the class has told their friends and work colleges, the teacher has a potential pool of hundreds of people who may have heard about the class by word of mouth. In business there is no better advertisement than word of mouth. It is your customer’s testimony that you are providing a good service.

Difficult students’ scenarios:

3: A student tries to teach other people in the class incorrectly or correctly.

A: Let them continue as they are helping you.
B: Tell them to leave the teaching to the teacher.
C: Tell them their help is appreciated but to ask for permission to demonstrate before doing so.

C is the correct answer. You shouldn’t have someone unqualified and uninsured teaching without your permission.

A is a common event in the classroom situation. If someone goes to the toilet or takes a phone call and misses five minutes of the class, other students will try and be helpful and show them what they have just missed. If the teacher is observant then this can be picked up. If, on the other hand, the student wants to show other students because they assume they know better than others then this raises a series of problems. Firstly, the student is assuming that the job of a teacher doesn’t require any skill, and secondly, the student will be creating a portion of students doing things differently to what the teacher requires. The teacher will have to then retrain the other students. The approach: the student must be taken to one side and told that his or her help is appreciated but you are responsible for what is taught and how it is taught. Let them know that if anyone was injured in the class that you would be responsible and not them. This requires leadership from the teacher and the student should not be let off because if it continues, it won’t be long before they think they can take over your class.

4: A student contradicts you the teacher.

A: Ask the student to leave the class.
B: Ask student where they got their information and compare with your source.
C: Ignore the student.

Both A and C should be avoided because they will cause repercussions in the future. Situation A will cause the student to despise you forever and situation C will allow the student to contradict you at a later stage and negatively affect the minds of other students.

B is the best choice to make. It is possible to have a student who sometimes knows things that the teacher doesn’t know, even in a beginners’ class, if it relates to the history of the dance or musical interpretation. If the student claims to know more than the teacher in a beginners’ class then this suggests the student is not a beginner or that the teacher doesn’t know their stuff . This student may have different motives for being in the class e.g. they want to socialise, meet a partner, is a teacher themselves and wants to check out the competition! Whatever the reason, the teacher must approach this situation with diplomacy and politeness. Ask where the student found this information and then tell the student your source of information and why you teach based on this source. If a student persists in contradicting and interrupting your class, there is not much point in them being there or you teaching them. You should refer the student to your ground rules for respect and participation. If the problem continues the student should be politely referred to a more appropriate class. Preferably not one of yours! Not all teachers are suitable for all students regardless of the subject matter some personalities find it hard to co-exist.

5: A student just doesn’t get the moves:

A: Point and laugh at the student.
B: Assume the student is slow and just continue.
C: Give the student individual attention.

A is not to be done in any circumstances because it is unprofessional and will destroy the students confidence.

Option B will only lead to a frustrated student who will not come back.

C is the correct answer. There are many people who have problems with coordination and timing, this is not unusual. One of the key skills a teacher can have is patience. This skill can be used to find out why the student isn’t learning. It could be the teachers fault; maybe explanations are not clear enough. The student may have a slight hearing or sight impairment or dyspraxia, a condition which affects the balance and coordination of the person. If they have dyspraxia the student will take perhaps two or three times longer to learn the steps and moves. This condition should be assessed at the very beginning with an initial assessment. All students should be asked about past injuries and medical conditions. It should be assessed from the beginning whether the class is appropriate for the student. Private lessons or special supervision of a helper may be required and should be factored into your teaching practice.

6: A student is drunk in a club or bar restaurant:

A: Let them carry on, they are just having fun.
B: Ask security to remove them.
C: Talk to them and find out more.

C is the answer and the way to deal with it professionally. This is a situation which surprisingly doesn’t happen much. The majority of people who take a salsa class are sober, very alert and keen to learn.

A very small percentage of people will drink alcohol to obtain some Dutch courage. If this is the case, it may have the effect of relaxing them and making them more sociable, it may also have the effect of making them rude, careless and negligent. If you smell strong alcohol on a students’ breath, the student should be asked if they have had a drink and if so how much. If you think it is excessive, the student must be asked to leave the class. This is an uncomfortable situation for both the teacher and the student but for everyone’s health and safety, it is necessary. Drunk people sometimes start fights and this is the worst thing you can have happen.

7: A Student is aggressive:

A: Let them carry on.
B: Ask security to remove them.
C: Talk to them and find out more.

Again, C is the answer and the way to deal with it professionally. If a student is aggressive, and doesn’t seem to respect the other students, or you the teacher, ask the student if they are ok, and probe deeper into their behaviour it may be that they have a condition or had a family bereavement, until you ask you don’t know. If the student is just generally aggressive you must refer them to the ground rules which your students should be made to sign when they first signed up for the salsa class. If you don’t have a ground rules policy, it will create problems for any conflict resolution.

8: Students want to advance to higher levels but don’t practice enough:

A: Let them advance to the next level.
B: Test them in an assessment.
C: Ask them how long they have been dancing.

B is the correct answer and the way to deal with it professionally. This is a situation that occurs often because salsa is a social dance and many people have very little time for socialising. They roll their social dancing, exercise and relaxation needs into one salsa night or one salsa class. This raises very high expectations and it is very difficult for the teacher to supply all of those needs. Most classes emphasize one or two of these elements but to attain all three of them would require careful planning. A teacher should have a lesson plan which breaks down what is taught in the class and also what exercises the students need to do in order to improve. If the students are only interested in socialising then you will not get much improvement from them unless they practise salsa two or three times a week.

9: A student is epileptic :

A: Let them carry on.
B: Ask them to leave the class.
C: Talk to them and find out what extra assistance they need.

All medical conditions should be revealed to the teacher in the initial assessment questionnaire. When you are aware that the student is epileptic you must have a diagnostic assessment of the degree of epilepsy. It may be necessary for the person to have individual support and their appropriate medication at hand. Teachers should be First Aid certified and know what to do when one of their students have accidents or fall ill.

10: The student has a back injury and asks if it is ok to take part in the class:

A: Let them join the class.
B: Ask them for a doctors’ recommendation.
C: Tell them it is at their own risk.

B is the correct answer because you as a teacher are not qualified nor insured to give medical advice. It is for the student to assess their physical health and tell the teacher on the initial questionnaire. The teacher must then decide whether to allow the student in the class. If the student persists in asking for permission to join the class the teacher should deny them access. This action will involve strong leadership but will save the teacher from a potential personal injury claim.

11: A student is molesting other students:

A: Let them carry on!
B: Ask security to remove them.
C: Talk to them and find out more from both sides.

C is the answer before deciding on a course of action. You should have a ground rules agreement outlining what is acceptable behaviour and treatment for everyone in the class. We must refer back to the ground rules agreement that the student should sign at the very beginning of the class. If other participants are not being treated with respect, the student should be reminded of the breach. If it occurs again the student should be banned from the class. Lack of action from the teacher could be seen as silent consent to this abuse. Students have a high respect for teachers, this respect must not be bought into question because of the teachers’ failure to observe and manage their class.

12: Your assistant teacher contradicts you:

A: Let them carry on.
B: Start an argument in front of the class.
C: Immediately talk to them in private and ask why.

C is the correct answer and will save the whole class a lot of embarrassment. Your teaching practice may grow to the point where you need help to teach larger groups. You will need to hire some help. If you are hiring someone who is not qualified and therefore has not been verified by a national teaching body then the assistant will not know how to deal with many of the pit falls mentioned in this book. To ensure agreement with your assistant you must create a contract which should preferably be written although some people decide on verbal agreements and some people have no agreement whatsoever and deal with problems as they arise. Always have a written agreement. You should have a teaching lesson plan with the assistant and the assistant should be vetted because if they are not, and you just take their word that they have taught before, you are setting yourself up for serious problems in your class. If there is disagreement you should have a policy of how that is dealt with and it should not be aired or argued in front of the students. If there is disagreement in front of students, they will assume that you don’t respect each others’ opinions and they may lose respect for you as a teacher. They may also assume that you are not a competent teacher.

13: Your assistant teacher attempts to poach your students:

A: Let them carry on.
B: Ask security to remove them!
C: Refer them to the non competition contractual agreement clause.

C is the correct answer. In most training contracts, the trainee wants to become independent and start their own teaching practice. If this is the case you must formulate a contract which restricts your assistant from taking the details of the business practice (your clients). A clause in the contract can also include restricting the assistants’ work within a certain area from your base after they finish working with you. If you fail to ask the assistant to sign this agreement you leave yourself vulnerable to a takeover by your assistant. This happens in most fields of work, including salsa. If you don’t have a contract with the assistant, there is nothing you can do to stop the assistant taking your hard earned clients. Salsa is a business and it must be executed in a business like way.