Is it easy for beginners to learn salsa?
Salsa is very easy to learn, like driving a car. And, like when you handle the automobile, you need to know the key codes that will allow you to master this dance technique. Unfortunately, most salsa dance teachers show you one aspect and deliberately leave some others on the side because they know deep down they don’t understand these aspects. For example, no amount of salsa dance poses will help you if I don’t teach you how to understand salsa rhythm. And no matter how long you learn these steps, you will only become a great dancer if you learn about body movements and why they are important. Therefore, it’s easy to learn salsa, even for beginners, but you must keep these three factors close to your radar:
Do I understand the rhythm of the song?
One of the critical complaints of people who learn salsa is that they cannot hear the beat. By beat, they either mean the clave or conga as taught by their teachers. So I made a series of 5 videos that teach dancers how to recognize the clave in salsa and why they should first start by listening to Cuban rumba.
🇨🇺 Don’t overlook the rhythm of Cuban rumba
I know many people will overlook the rumba aspect because all they think about is, “I only want to learn salsa”. But listening in itself is a skill. In this world, there are people whose only job is to listen to sound. So, it’s essential to recognize that you must spend a considerable amount of time listening to music in a structured way if you want to dance on beat. And the reason why, even after many years, plenty of dancers cannot dance on beat is that they only train their ears for a few minutes when their teacher puts on the record that plays “1,2,3-5,6,7”. Use the five levels I have produced, and you will see results. I guarantee it.
🇨🇺 Small recap for beginners
– The basic salsa steps are made of 2 measures of 4 beats each. You, therefore, have eight beats on a basic salsa step. And a salsa song is a continuous “looping” of these two measures.
– Typically, on a basic step, you will hear the clave five times (either 2/3 or 3/2, which means the number of times the clave appears on each measure).
Do I have mastery over my body?
The second element you need to consider is how “malleable” your body is. You might think, “well, I am stiff. Therefore, there is no hope”. You would be wrong to think that way, and point number 3 about practice will make that clear. If you understand what exercises you should do to help you get a softer body (which will allow you to execute the movement more fluidly), you will have a real salsa body in no time. In my tutorial about body isolation, I go over the key movements you should work on to get a body that will allow you to enjoy your salsa moves fully. By the way, all the videos I recommend are based on my own experience. Some things did not work, and I tossed them out. And I only kept what I saw yielded results.
Am I willing to practice repeatedly?
Practice is the third important component to consider if you want to see progress in your salsa. Notice that up to now, I have yet to mention salsa steps. That’s because they only account for 5% of your salsa training. Consider that statement with what regular teachers, who only focus on salsa steps, teach. No wonder why there are so many people who, even after 20 years of salsa dancing, still cannot dance on beat. Or cannot let their body express themselves freely. It would be best if you realized that you don’t need to know that many salsa steps to have a great time. However, if you are frustrated because you cannot find the rhythm of a song or cannot move freely, you will never truly enjoy yourself.
What are the basic salsa steps for beginners?
The basic steps of salsa for beginners include the following:
1 – Most common one
This is the very basic step of salsa for beginners. It consists of forward and backward moves on beat. It’s essential to use the motions of your hips and shoulders when you execute this motion. When the men move forward, the ladies go back.
2 – A classical Son move
I love this step because it matches the clave rhythm perfectly. Therefore, it’s ideal for beginners who are learning salsa. It consists of moving forward (or backward) on a full eight counts. You can make this move either forward or sideways.
3 – Basic backward steps
This significant step will teach you how to create enough tension in your arms when you want to prepare a partner for turns. 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)
– Then to the center (2,3).
– Finally, you repeat the same process with the opposite leg and arm on (5,6,7).
4 – Basic salsa turns for beginners
Because I know salsa dancers love turns, let’s introduce a simple one. We can first execute the 1st basic step shown earlier. The key to remember is to have one spot you can return to after executing the turn(s). If you ever felt dizzy after a turn, it’s because, instead of looking at your partner or a point in front of you, you let your head spin. Avoid this.
5 – Taps
Speed is an essential aspect of salsa. Therefore, let’s introduce a simple step that can help with that. First, you execute in position two “toe/heel” taps on the count of 8—one on your lead leg, one on the other leg.
Now in Practice
What shoes are good for salsa beginners?
That’s one of the key questions beginners ask when they start salsa. If you read my post on the topic, I go over my best recommendations for both ladies and men. These are based on my own experience and trials as well as those of my partners. Below are two great recommendations for both ladies and guys.
🎶 Mid-heels for Style
Depending on your size, try mid-heel salsa dance shoes. I used to like high heels because I found them elegant. But this can be a problem for your back.
Mid-heel can be used during dance shows, rehearsals, or dance training. Their soles are very convenient for turn patterns. I used mine during many salsa festivals in Shanghai, and they were very comfortable and convenient. These types of shoes have another benefit. They can fit with your costumes. Moreover, unlike conventional shoes that might hurt your feet and that are not made for dancing, these shoes are perfect.
🎶 Flat for rehearsal
My absolute favorite salsa dance shoes are the flat ones. I love dancing barefoot when I train and even perform. But sometimes it’s good to have some style and comfort. That’s why I love these flat salsa dance shoes. They allow me to feel the floor better and help me exert the right amount of pressure on any parts of my feet. They also guarantee I will not have many ailments in the future arising from back issues. Therefore, I recommend the first two pairs of shoes for nights out, while I suggest these for training purposes. Not everyone loves to dance barefoot. So, they are the closest to engaging with the floor without being barefoot.
Images of me wearing these flat salsa dance shoes during a photo shoot with my dance partner.
For ladies, what matter are Style, elegance, and convenience all at once. Not something that screams “students” all over the place.
🇨🇺 High-heels with colorful Style
The first one mixes elegance and color. They will be a good grip when you dance and not too slippery for your spin. One of the key problems for dancers who engage in turn patterns is that they might need to learn the whole technique. Especially keeping your gaze on one spot and ensuring your eyes are the last thing leaving that spot. If you add the right shoes to the average technique, you can have a good outcome. I have personally witnessed it. Therefore, I advise on these shoes.
🇨🇺 Tan Satin that matches the settings
The second one I recommend is these satin shoes. They will blend perfectly with your clothes and provide comfort during your turns. They have an excellent quality feel, and most importantly, the heels are not too high and, therefore, not a future source of back problems.
Discover new, untapped materials
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