Learn how to dance salsa

How to Dance Salsa – Detailed and Slow Paced for True Beginners

Man in salsa dance pose

Have you ever lied in bed, dreaming you knew how to dance salsa? Unlike what you might think, not only is it easy to learn salsa, but the best way to start is by doing it by yourself. In this post, I will go over a detailed and slow system that you can implement right now, and that will answer your “how to dance salsa” questions. Along the way, I will debunk popular beliefs such as the need for a partner to dance salsa and why you are led to believe that.

Why you should dance salsa by yourself?

Believe it or not. Most of my time is spent dancing alone. At the beginning of my salsa journey, I danced with many partners but realized my level was not that great. And because I am ambitious, I used to compare my dance level with that of professionals. Then I realized that what they did in shows, for example, differed entirely from how they danced at parties. Which made me understand that salsa dancing performances are just that. Choreographed pieces that eliminated all the ambient factors, such as the surface on which you dance or the person with whom you dance. And I realized then that a true dancer should be great at dancing:

– by him/herself,
– with a partner,
– with or without dancing shoes,
– No matter the surface
– Whatever the music

Then I asked myself what salsa is and dancing in general.

What is dancing?

It’s the ability to express yourself honestly, bare and naked, using your body to reach an apex. When you reach that apex, you enter another “dimension”. Although that might sound like “mumbo jumbo” (by the way, do you know what mambo (the dance) means:  a conversation with the Gods), I have experienced it many times. Indeed, I can go from one state of being to another within seconds of starting to dance. A point where all 7 seem to fall, and there is only you, enjoying the grace of alignment between your body, mind, soul, and energy.

What did I draw from my observation?

I realized I should first learn by myself how to dance salsa and other dances and that I should not need a partner to enjoy myself. Of course, if you can dance with one partner, that’s an additional bonus, but this would be just one aspect and not the whole thing. The question then becomes how to dance salsa by yourself.

How to dance salsa without a partner?

The most important point is to focus on body movements and good musical sense. By the latter, you should be able to find the rhythm of a salsa song and draw a picture of how you would dance to this song, even if you do not know how to dance. Although this might sound strange, whenever I used to hear a salsa song I liked, I would imagine how I would dance to it. Then the more my mind got fixed on the dance movements I would execute, the more it pushed me to learn them. I proceeded like this until I could bring my imagination to reality. By the way, I still do this whenever I feel connected to a song.

Good musical hearing – is the first step

Most salsa teachers will show you how to count from 1,2,3-5,6,7. However, I am sure you felt lost when you went out to dance without them. And by the window 1,2,3-5,6,7 went. There is an apparent reason for this. Most likely, you did not train your ears to listen to the rhythm and patterns of the salsa music. It’s a bit like driving without any instruction. The question, therefore, will not be “when will I have an accident? but “how many of them will I have?”.
Luckily, I sorted out that issue for you as I developed a 5-level musical hearing program for free. This training takes you from the kind of songs you should listen to as a beginner to complicated ones. For example, have any of your teachers told you to listen and study rumba if you wanted to know how to dance salsa? 

Why rumba is great to know how to dance salsa?

There are a few key reasons:
Rumba uses the clave a lot. This instrument is the key for salsa dancers.
The clave is perceptible, unlike with typical salsa songs that might be clouded with tones of instruments.
You can integrate salsa steps on rumba songs making the perfect way to train (clear clave + salsa steps).
With this Afro-Cuban dance, you also learn body movement.
Therefore, the next question is how you deal with the clave.

How to recognise the Rumba clave?

There are two ways to play the clave in rumba—2/3 or 3/2.
These numbers mean that you will hear the clave five times on a basic rumba sequence consisting of 2 measures of 4 beats each.

🎶 Rumba clave2/3

On the 1st measure, you hear the clave twice on beat 2&3, then three times on the 2nd (beat 5, “&” in between 6/7, then after 8).

🎶 Rumba clave 3/2

On the 1st measure, you hear the clave three times (1, “&” between 2/3, and “&” just at the end of the 4th beat). On the second measure, you will perceive it twice on 6 and 7. Check out the video for a practical explanation of the rhythm.

learn how to dance salsa with the help of the clave
Clave for cuban rumba dance

Body movement – is the second step

This is the second secret if you want to know how to dance salsa. So far, you might think, “Where are the goddamn salsa moves? I am not interested in all those music hearing and body movement stuff”. However, if you have admired dancers that seem to move their bodies freely, it’s because they worked on this aspect a lot. And the good news is that you can do it while you listen to rumba. So, killing two birds with one stone. The following video below shows you a set of body movements and isolation I use daily. It helps me warm up, prevent injuries, and have a flexible body that obeys all my wishes. In my Rumba dance video, I also illustrate the five key rumba moves you should know.

Practice the first two secrets tirelessly

The third hush-hush tip is to drill over and over, especially musical hearing and body movement. If you complete these two parts, you will understand 90% of salsa without even learning any salsa steps. Furthermore, if you have danced salsa for many years and did not see improvements, this is why. You focused on steps and partners at the expense of body movement and musical hearing. I saw it many times with students of 10, 15, or 20 years of salsa who could not understand how in a mere two years, I was able to surpass their level. Now that I have given you the secrets, it’s up to you.

5 dance steps to know how to dance salsa

Basic of salsa steps

TThis is the very basic salsa step. It consists of a forward and backward move-on beat. The key for this move is to use your hips and opposite shoulders. The ladies do the opposite of what the men do.

basic salsa steps to know how to dance salsa

One directional move

This step is the ideal answer for those who wonder how to dance salsa on the beat. I love it because it matches the clave rhythm perfectly. Unlike the previous basic step, the dancer should move in one direction only on the full eight counts. Therefore, if the men move forward from 1 to 7, the ladies go backward (and vice versa). Another similar move is to dance sideways.

Second basic salsa steps to know how to dance salsa
Second basic salsa steps to know how to dance salsa

Basic backward steps

Another great step that will teach you how to dance salsa properly. As you hold your partner’s hands (forming a W shape with the arms), you move your lead leg backward on the count of (1) and then to the center (2,3). Finally, you repeat the same process with the opposite leg and arm (5,6,7).

Backward salsa dance move

Basic salsa turns

With these dance steps, we introduce the basic turns. One of the key elements of the turn is preparation. Indeed, many dancers shy away from this move because they feel dizzy after executing it. That’s because they don’t keep their sight on one point, and they let their whole body get carried away by the movements of their head. Instead, you should keep your eyes on a point in front of you, and as you execute the turn, you release your head at the last moment. After which, you try to come back to the same point.

Man’s turn

basic salsa turn for men

Ladies’s turn

Salsa turn for ladies


The last steps we will learn today will help you dance salsa fast. Although the first few moves were focused on your hips control, this one concentrates more on your feet. First, you start with the toes of your left foot, then the heels to come back to the center. Next, you repeat the same process on the other foot.

Tip toe steps to learn how to dance salsa

This is how to dance salsa with a partner

Discover new, untapped materials

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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