Dancing Salsa like a pro is not always about what you should do, but sometimes about what you shouldn’t do.
I’ve been dancing for over 12 years, and I am blessed to have had many amazing instructors who Inspired me to grow and improve. And now guess what? I get to share these tips and tricks, and gifts with you.
I would like to make one thing clear. A professional dancer is a dancer who could get paid for what they do because there is a recognition of his skill level, energy and professionalism and most importantly, they have 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. So practice these, and you’ll be able to really flow on the dance floor and always aim at being an A+ version of yourself. Please note, I’m teaching this on leaders timing, Salsa LA style on one count.
Tip #1: Lead your partner with your core.
Leaders turn and lead your partner with your core. This tip is much easier to explain in person than in writing, and that is one of the benefits of attending class at a dance studio. Still, a good way to describe this technique is using the balloon analogy. First, I want you to take a deep breath and then slowly breathe out through your mouth. Like, you’re trying to fill a balloon, you press your lips, and you’re slowly blowing air. And when you do that, you’ll notice that your stomach and your diaphragm compress, and that’s how you lead.
Now, you’re not actually going to focus on breathing in and breathing out when you’re dancing, but a quick hack is when you grab a follower’s hand and get ready to do a “JPrep” for a turn on steps 1, 2, 3, and then you press your lips, and you breathe out as you start to do the turn, what you’ll find is it’s not just your arm that turns your partner’s body, it’s your whole body. I would describe it as throwing a punch. A punch doesn’t come from the bicep, the tricep or the shoulder; it comes from the ground. It comes from the whole body, and the hand is just the extension of that. Every pro knows that when we’re leading and moving our partner, it’s never from the arms; it’s from our core which is that space where your belly button sits. This practice takes a long time to master, but it’s an incredible and invaluable skill as when you’re dancing with someone, your followers won’t quite understand, but they constantly feel they’re smoother because they dance with you, leading with your core.
Tip #2: Followers, always be late.
Every follower knows that as a follower, well, you have to follow. And the best way to follow is to BE LATE. What that means is, there’s always a signal, and then you follow that signal. Like driving a car, when you are sitting in the driver’s seat, and you turn the steering wheel, the steering gets turned first, and then the wheels follow afterwards. And so, the best followers are a microsecond behind the leading.
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, be late. 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, but you’re connecting with your body and moving at the correct times. So the general rule when dancing as a follower, be late.
Tip #3: For leaders and followers, turn with your core.
This technique can be challenging to understand. When my instructor taught me how to turn with my core, I had difficulty understanding it. But here’s a simple way of doing it. 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 in my other articles.
So, starting on T-Rex position, you’re going to take your left foot forward, then you’re going to tap with your left foot, and as you’re going to do a right turn, you’re going to twist, but you’re going to rotate with your belly button. An easy way to do this is you take your right hand, place it on your belly and try turning with your belly instead of pushing off with your foot. 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.
What’s a simple way to visualize it?
Imagine someone calling your name, and you twist, and you turn. What did you turn with first? Your feet, your head, or your body? You turn with your head, your body follows, and then your feet come last. That’s how you do a turn in Salsa. Turn is a twist, not a push.
You can practice this at home, by yourself, put on some socks you don’t even need dance shoes. To clarify further for readers who like to count their steps, I will use leaders’ timing. Take your left foot. TAP, with your left on 1. Then twist your belly halfway through on 2, and you keep twisting your belly and bring it around. Your foot comes in last on 3. Whether you are doing a single turn, two turns or 20 turns, it makes no difference. We’re constantly twisting in our turns instead of kicking.
There are so many more tips that I can share with you and the growth and game of being a professional dancer. Becoming a great dancer is a journey. There is no top of the mountain, and as this blog is being written, I’m still growing and expanding my understanding of my body and how I dance and how I can continue to develop my skills as a dancer.
As you’re practicing all this, don’t be so hard on yourself; just remember, you’re enough as a human. Yes, you can always get better as a dancer, but as a human, you are enough. I stress this because I used to make the mistake of pushing myself down, and instead of enjoying my progress, I would think that I would have more fun when I became a better dancer. I learned that we could have fun while practicing to be better dancers. It’s both. 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 coming in week to week, having fun, connecting with new friends and letting lose to amazing Latin songs. Click here to check our current schedule.
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