Salsa Dance Tips for Beginners
1. Practice the Basic Steps
We recommend that you practice the basic steps at home. This will fast track your progress in class because it will teach your body to remember the rhythm of the music. You must practice the basic until it feels as natural and automatic as walking. It is a good idea to purchase some salsa music and get the feel of it to the basic steps. I recommend finding the time to practice basics to a whole CD as a Cardio workout. At the beginning you may only be able to dance 2 songs, Work towards dancing to a whole 60 minute CD. You brain will get real bored, but once it passes the threshold you will begin to internalise the dance motions.
2. Listen to the Music
Grab a copy of some salsa music or listen to salsa radio online. Let the music be heard by your body and react to the rhythm. Most dancers say you have got to feel the music and then dance the music. There are a few distinct types of music in the salsa scene; Salsa, Bachata, Cha Cha, Merengue, and Cumbia. Learn to recognise the signature and dance to the rhythm and beats.
3. Posture and Arm/Hand holds
Keep your body upright, your hands up at waist level and elbows to the front of your body. For Ladies do not lead the guys hands and do not go floppy with spaghetti arms, This makes it difficult for the guy to lead you, also do not hold tightly onto his hands and limit his ability to lead you. For Men, Do not squeeze the woman’s hands with a tight grip. Do not force the woman with excessive force, If she does not know the move she will have to learn it later.
4. Don’t forget to have Fun and enjoy the music.
Dancing is meant to be fun and natural. Getting angry at yourself for doing something wrong is the worst attitude to have. everyone starts from nothing and it learning to dance is a slow process where it clicks for people at different times. Everyone learns at their own pace and the dance instructors usually revisit content so you can eventually pick up the moves. Dance with a smile on your face and enjoy the persons company that you are dancing with. If the person takes the smile the wrong way, it is your personal responsibility to maintain your personal space.
5. Go out social dancing
it is beneficial to gain experience dancing with different people and getting used to their leading or following. This makes you more robust as a dancer and creates a more enjoyable experience. Social dancing improves what you learn in class in a practical setting, Class improves what you can do when you social dance.
6. Be empathetic towards male dancers
It takes men 3 times as long to learn to lead than it does to follow. Woman progress fast in a salsa class because following is alot easier than leading. For Men, Persist with learning to lead, It eventually comes and when it does it will be automatic. Lead can sometimes take years to master. Following also does. Styling and musicality are other aspects that come later.
7. Don’t show off too much or try to learn too fast
Salsa is one of those things that when egotism comes to play, it affects the persons ability to learn with a more solid foundation. Keep an open mind and talk to everybody. Taking your time with your own dance journey is important and there is no rush. People with the tendency to want to learn fast, end up leaving fast too. There are no short cuts, but there are smarter ways of doing things that you can pick up along the way. Once you have learned something, you need to keep practicing until it improves. Learning the move isn’t merely learning it once and then knowing it. Once you develop the ability to internalise it and do it naturally, you can show off later. But don’t close yourself off to new variations or possibilities of learning. Sometimes dance is the first time that someone has a taste of self esteem and sooner or later let insecurity plague their mind. the bottom line, It is supposed to be fun and never forget that.
8. Every Basic step in between moves can be replaced with a cross body lead,
To make the dance faster and more interesting, The basic steps can be replaced by a cross body lead. That being said , Cross body leads can be replaced by inline turns. Single turns can also be replaced by double or triple turns. This is where things get fast.
9. Don’t be a snob, Use Discernment for your own safety
You will limit your experience if you are snobby. Salsa Dance is like any other social context, it’s up to you who you hang around and who you decide to associate with. Look after yourself, nobody likes to baby sit anyone at a salsa club, especially if someone attracts trouble or attention and then expect their more experienced friends to deal with the fall out. Beyond a certain age, one is expected to be able to look after themselves in social contexts as an adult.
10. Avoid taking large steps back.
This is the cause of “Being Sillettoed”, This is where the sharp heel stabs someone else in the foot. During Classes the teacher may exaggerate steps for the benefit of the class, however during a social dance setting, you may need to reduce your steps to tiny to medium sized steps retaining your zone under your body. The worst thing is to have a unsafe dancer throwing their partner into the pathway of other dancers in a crowded bar.
11. Refusing Dances or Being Refused to by someone
If you are uncomfortable with dancing with someone, it is okay to refuse an offer. I’m just taking a break or my feet are tired is a good enough excuse. If someone makes unwanted advances during a dance, It is okay to refuse. Sometimes men don’t take no for an answer and it is up to the woman to make the call in assertion or giving him a chance. If you are already dancing with them, Use your arm to retain distance or dance in open stance. For men, if you get rejected, do not take it personally and find another person to dance with, the quicker you bounce back the better. An established dancer refuses rarely unless they genuinely do not want to dance with that person.
12. Dress appropriately, act appropriately
For women, Do not wear strapless dresses, Boob tube tops. These have the tendency to fall off when dancing especially on dips. Sandals are bad for dancing too as they can break when doing turns. Do not carry your handbag if you intend to dance, Carrying a handbag is a sign of a novice, when the lady gets spun, the handbag has a tendency to project out and hit the dance partner or other people around you. Long hair in a pony tail is also a risk of flailing people in the face. Experienced dancers will look for women who have no handbag and sometimes purchased nice dancing shoes as it is a sign of investment in dance lessons. If you wish to dance, do not hide in a dark corner of the room. the best tactic is to stand right at the edge of the dance floor moving gently to the music, This will be the invitation for a man to ask you to dance. Women should also make eye contact and smile briefly to indicate interest in a dance.
For Men, Do not dance with a beer in your hand, Put it down and ask with an extended palm. If i girl says no obviously, do not persist after 3 attempts as this is her way of telling you that you are annoying her. If you want to dance, ask with genuine intentions. If she is with her boyfriend, wait for her personal approval from him to avoid embarrassing yourself.
13. Dance for yourself and your partner
People make the mistake of dancing with someone and watching who is watching them. A dance is shared as a personal moment between the two people dancing. Make it fun for you and your partner. Constantly scanning for the approval of others is worthless. When you get good at dancing take compliments with grace and be humble.
14. Attend Classes regularly
The best dancers are the ones that consistently stick through with classes. Attending “on and off” limits the development. Attending Social dancing improves retention of skill and attending classes develops your skills faster.
In conclusion, Everyone will have a different Salsa journey and it is up to the individual to make the most of their situation with a positive attitude. At Passionata Dance, we train our students to be accepting and collaborative dancers so they may contribute their positive inclusive attitude to the salsa community. All relationships are one on one interactions that the students have control over themselves to make the right decisions of whom they want to associate with.
Article by Derek Vuong, Passionata Dance