3 Things a Beginner Salsa Dancer Must Learn

If you are a complete beginner Salsa dancer and you are not sure where to get started, I’m here to help. I believe confidence comes from competence. So here are three moves a beginner Salsa dancer must learn to feel confident.


It is in the name. Salsa basics are the first thing you will learn as a beginner. It is where everything starts. Salsa has eight beats and we dance on six of them. So we dance on one, two, three, pause on four, dance on five, six, seven and pause on eight.

Forward and back basics on leader’s timing are: step forward with your left on one, step in place with your right on two. Bring your feet together on three. After your pause on four, you step back with your right on five, in place with your left on six and bring your feet together on seven. Then there is another pause on eight. Followers’ steps are the same but they mirror the leader’s steps. So followers step back on one, two and three and then forward on five, six and seven.

One of the best hacks I share in my classes is to think of the rhythm for the song “We Will Rock You” by Queen. That is the rhythm of Salsa. The other hack I can give you is to think of Salsa as walking. You alternate your feet in Salsa, just like walking.

A common mistake that beginners make is thinking that to learn Salsa they have to learn the tricks, the turns and the patterns. But that’s not true, Salsa is about learning how to stay upright on a bike and just pedal. Don’t worry about the tricks. They will come later. If you can do your basics, you can dance Salsa.

The Right Turn

The most important move, the move that will be done the most in Salsa for everyone from beginners to professionals and one that you must learn is the right turn. At Toronto Dance Salsa, we learn the right turn in the first hour of a beginner class because we realize its importance. It’s something that we do up to level six. It’s something that professionals do. It is the Swiss Army knife of Salsa turns – useful in any situation.

This is the basic breakdown of a leader’s turn in L.A.- Style Salsa (dancing on the one). Step forward with your left foot on one. On two, look over your right shoulder and twist a half turn to your right. So you should be facing away from your partner. Then continue twisting to your right and bring your feet together on three. On three, you should be facing your partner again. For followers, the count is different but the steps are the same. You step forward on five, twist on six and bring your feet together on seven.

Here are a couple of hints. Remember to take small steps and twist with your belly button. When I was learning, my instructor used to tell me to turn with my core. That was confusing for me. So, in my classes, I say you turn with your belly button. Not with your feet. Imagine this. If someone taps you on the shoulder, would you bring your foot behind your back and twist with your feet? Or would you just twist your torso and swivel around? I imagine that you’re smiling and saying. Yeah. Okay, it’s the torso. And that’s the answer. Turn with your torso. This will boost your confidence instantly.

Cross-Body Lead

The crossbody lead is where as a leader, you take a follower across the room and if you’re a follower, you would be taken across the room. Once you learn this move, you and your partner can flow across the dance floor. It is amazing. It feels like a whole new world has opened up.

A cross-body lead is where a follower does 1/2 a basic and the leader steps forward with the left on one, steps to the side to open a path for the follower with the right on two, then brings their feet together on three. On five, six and seven, the leader helps the follower across the dance floor. On six, the follower does a half turn so the leader and the follower have changed positions. It is a beautiful move that allows beginners and professionals alike to flow across the Salsa dance floor.

There are a couple of hints that will help. For leaders, you must remember to use your connection to the follower’s body. That’s your right hand to their shoulder blades to carry them across. Followers, please remember that you never want to leave your partner. So take small steps.

So these are the most critical moves a beginning Salsa Dancer must learn. But even more important than the moves is to come with the right mindset, which is to have fun, play and connect with people. Because when you have all of that, the learning just becomes natural and you don’t feel overwhelmed. If you want to level up your Salsa dancing and are ready for a bit more of a challenge, check out How to Dance Salsa Like a Pro.

I can’t wait to welcome you to our big family, have you come in every week, have fun, socialize, and let loose to amazing Latin songs. Click here for our current schedule.

If you have any questions you would like me to answer, here are some ways you can contact me: message me on Instagram (torontodancesalsa), on Twitter (#torontodancesalsa), on Facebook (Toronto Dance Salsa) or email me at [email protected].