basic salsa steps

The Best Way to Learn Salsa – Basic Salsa Steps

It’s funny! When you look for basic Salsa, you can find at least 3 or 4 posts related to the food. Here we are going to talk about Salsa, the dancing steps. And quite frankly, they both go well together.

Basic salsa steps

Before you start dancing Salsa, there are a few things you should sort out first.
Primo, you must understand the rhythm of the music. In MY COUNTLESS POSTS on that topic, I write about the importance of developing good hearing for music and how to approach the endeavor. A basic salsa step is made of 2 measures of 4 beats each. When you dance Salsa, you want to understand the patterns of a few essential instruments, such as the clave.
The clave is one of the main instruments of Afro-Cuban dances because it directly connects the sound you hear with the motion of your feet. 

Different types of salsa

When you hit the salsa dance floor, one of the critical points of discussion is to recognize what salsa system you dance. Styles should not matter, but the issue often leads to a sort of “discrimination” between one style and the other. 
In Cuba, casino dance is the closest that resembles to what people call Salsa. There is also Salsa on 2 (the dancer break on the 2nd beat) which is typical for New York-style salsa, and then you also have Los Angeles salsa (on 1, the dancer breaks on the 1st beat). In our tutorial, the style will only matter a little as we will follow the rhythm of the clave. If you want to know more about the different types and their advantages, check out my post The Best Salsa Style For You In 7 Keys.

Can I learn salsa at home?

Absolutely. From my experience, there is no match to practicing alone at home, even if it’s great to have a partner. Learning Salsa at home has many significant advantages. First, you can spot all your weaknesses, as you can’t hide behind a partner. The second benefit lies in the fact that it’s very convenient. That’s why all the programs I have developed are based on people learning from home. Lastly, dance is a personal experience, even when you dance with someone. And if you want to make sure you enjoy the unique experience, you should know how to be happy dancing yourself.

How many steps are there in a basic salsa?

The dancers execute six steps in a basic salsa move (or step sequence). Over the count of 8 beats, he and she must execute these steps; otherwise, they risk being off-beat. A dancer is off-beat when his moves are not synchronized with the music and its rhythmic patterns. To avoid that common issue, you must develop good hearing for the music (see next chapter). Of course, you can execute more than six steps if you are fast and experienced enough or as little as 2 when you want to enjoy the music itself.

Rumba clave rhythm 3/2

This rhythm is pertinent in Salsa because of the strong connection between rumba dance and Salsa. In a basic step where you have two measures of 4 notes each, you will hear the clave 5 times. 3 times on the first measure, 2 times on the second one.
From there, you should train yourself to listen to different songs that display the clave. I have developed a 5 level programs for free that help with that. In that program, I explain why rumba songs are the best ones to listen to at the beginning if you want to dance Salsa well. The critical mistake of many practitioners is they listen to salsa songs with many instruments and get confused. In my approach, we first listen to songs with the clave only, then gradually to lyrics with many instruments. 

Learn basic salsa with the clave instrument (Clave rumba)

Sense of rhythm with body movement

Before we even dive into basic salsa steps, the second aspect to understand is that without proper coordination between what you listen to and what your body does, there won’t be any good salsa dancing that comes out of it. It’s, therefore, essential to work on body movement and isolation in connection with the different types of songs you listen to. You can check my video on the topic here. Many people neglect this aspect, go on for years without breaking a ceiling and wonder why. The exercises I recommend can be applied to many other activities (sports, dance, yoga). It prevents injuries and introduces you to physical efforts gradually.

The key basic salsa steps you need to know

The simplicity of these moves should not blindside you from their effectiveness. When you start dancing Salsa, what you should be after is synchronization between the song, your body, and your feet. If you launch yourself into complex dance steps, you will fail, even if you can execute those steps correctly. At the moment, it is possible to do the sequences. You enjoy yourself; the teacher shows it to you etc. But then, when you try it by yourself, you are bound to forget them. Most importantly, you will realize it’s hard connecting the song’s rhythm with the dance step. Therefore, to avoid that, you need to focus on steps you can repeat over and over; without the fear that you will forget them.

🎶 The simplest yet most effective basic salsa step

basic salsa standing in place movement that follow the rumba clave

The motion is pretty simple, but you must execute it on beat.
As you hear the 1st beat, you move in one direction, then come back to the center. On the (5th) one, you go in the opposite direction and go back to the center. Again, the hips do the job. Get a sense of rhythm with this step, and you will see how easy Salsa will become.

🎶 Forward and backward

This is one of the basic salsa steps you are likely to encounter when you start dancing Salsa. The key here is to focus on the hips and not the feet; otherwise, you will feel awkward when you dance. As the man moves forward, the lady goes back, then vice versa. Now you try and connect this step with the clave training and video we just talked about above.

basic salsa move for male and female

🎶 Basic salsa turn

This step introduces you to one of the key features of salsa dancing: The turns.
It’s one of the most challenging moves for dancers, even if it’s really simple. The challenge lies in the fact it’s easy to lose balance or get dizzy after the turns. To avoid that, set your eyes on a spot before you turn and keep your gaze on this point until the last moment. That way, your eyes have something to come back to, and this feeling of dizziness will diminish dramatically. I have seen people fall because they cannot control the movement of their heads.

🎵   For men:

– You start with the 2nd basic move we just introduced. The first time, to remember how to come back to the center.
– The second time, you initiate the turn on (1), moving forward with your left leg,
– Pivot your right leg 180° (2),
– Move your left one in the opposite direction,
– Then the right leg in the center (5), followed by the left one (6),
– Then finish the step by tapping on the right leg (7)

basic salsa step with turn man
basic salsa step with turn man

🎵   For ladies:

– You start with the same basic move we just talked about.
– You initiate the same basic move again, only that on 5.6.7, you execute the turn and come back in place
– On the (5), your left leg is forward and perpendicular to the right one,
– Then you pivot your right foot 360° on (6)
– You finish with the left leg joining the right one in position (7)

🎶 Shuffle backward

This is another simple basic salsa move that you will find useful when you want to open up your partner or initiate a turn.
It simply consists of putting one leg behind the other while you follow the music and rhythm.

salsa dance shuffle backward
basic salsa dance shuffle backward

🎶 Around the world

This dance step is typical of casino Rueda (Cuban Salsa), in which the partners execute a 360 rotation.

Circular dance move from Cuban Salsa
basic salsa move from Cuban Salsa

This is a very popular movement of Son dancing that Salsa has adopted. However, it can be confusing at times. So, make sure you watch the video that details this move and all the others.

Don’t forget to Practice

Besides listening and body movement, the third secret to becoming a great salsa dancer is practicing over and over. These steps are easy to master but equally easy to forget if you don’t put the repetition. Therefore, you should approach your salsa journey with an organized step-by-step attitude rather than go for complicated fancy moves with no foundation. 
Hopefully, you found this little tutorial helpful. There are much more materials on Fill your boots.

I have more to offer

Learn Cuban Salsa, Bachata, Improv’ and many other dance styles. Check out these videos and see what you can achieve in less than 3 months. Private lessons available for just £35/Hour. Free body movement and basic salsa and bachata lessons provided.

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