How to Dance Salsa Like a Pro

Dancing Salsa like a pro is not always about what you should do, but sometimes about what you shouldn’t do. I would like to make one thing clear. A professional dancer is simply a dancer who has built a career around dancing. However, some excellent dancers are not professionals. Yet, professional dancers know the tricks that I’m about to share with you. Please note, I’m teaching this on leaders’ timing, Salsa LA style on one count. Follow these tips and you will be dancing Salsa like a pro in no time.

Turn With Your Core

This technique can be challenging to understand. Here is what helped me. Bring your feet together and have your knees slightly bent, a position also known by my students as the TRex position. It is a funny name I use, but it is an essential technique to keep balance when you turn, and you can read more about it here.

First, start in the T-Rex position. Second step forward with your left foot on one – but wait! Don’t put much weight on your left foot – it is more of a tap. Your weight should be on the ball of your right foot. Next, twist to your right on two. If you think of it as a twist, instead of a turn it can help. You are twisting with your belly button or core. Twist as far as you can and then squeeze your legs together and bring your feet together on three.

Another way to visualize this is to imagine someone behind you calling your name. When you turn around to look at them, what part of your body turned first? Your head! You turned to look for them and then your body turned and then your feet. Salsa turns are the same. So no pushing off with your foot. Twist with your core.

An easy way to learn how to twist with your core is to take your right hand and place it on your belly as you twist. Having your hand on your belly is a way to engage your core consciously. Every pro knows that you will always have more power in your core, where your belly button is than your feet. So twist with your core.

Lead Your Partner with your Core

This tip is much easier to explain in person than in writing. That is one of the benefits of attending class at a dance studio. A good way to describe leading with your core is to imagine you are blowing up a balloon. First, I want you to take a deep breath and then slowly breathe out through your mouth. Just like when you are blowing up a balloon. You will notice that your stomach and your diaphragm compress. And that is how you should lead.

Now you’re not going to focus on breathing in and out when you’re dancing. But a quick hack is when you get ready to do a “JPrep” for a turn on steps 1, 2, and 3, press your lips together. Next, as you lead your partner into the turn on steps 5,6, and 7 breathe out. This will allow you to lead the turn with your whole body, not just your hand or arm. Your hand is simply an extension of your body or your core. This is one reason why pro Salsa dancers look so smooth. It helps the followers turn more smoothly as well. This practice takes a long time to master, but it’s an incredible and invaluable skill.

Followers Should Always be Late 

Followers follow their leaders. And the best way to follow is to BE LATE. Leaders give the follower a signal and then the follower does the move. Think of it like driving a car. When you turn your car, the steering wheel is turned first and then the wheels follow. The wheels can’t go before the steering wheel is turned. And so, the best followers are a microsecond behind the leader.

So how can you practice this as a follower? When you’re social dancing, just keep telling yourself,… be late. No joke. I tell this to my students constantly. And what you’ll find is you’ll start to become a better follower because you’re not worried or tensing up at the wrong times. Instead, you’re connecting with your body and moving at the correct times. So the general rule when dancing as a follower, be late. Go on YouTube and watch some professional Salsa dancers. If you slow down the videos, you might be able to see that the followers are just a little bit behind the leaders.

As you’re practicing and dancing, don’t be so hard on yourself. There is no top of the mountain in Salsa. I’m a professional dancer and I’m still growing and improving. I stress this because I used to make the mistake of pushing myself down. Instead of enjoying my progress, I would focus on the mistakes I made or how I could improve. You can still have fun while practicing to be a better dancer. So keep growing, and at some point, I hope to get a chance to meet you on our dance floor

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 to check 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].