I received a comment on an old post that I wrote called “Salsa Tips to Keep In Mind”. Here was the question that Mark asked:

“I just have a quick question. The other day I went to a salsa class and the instructor said we shouldn’t use our thumbs when holding onto the woman’s hands. For me I find it easier to create and control the tension if I use my thumbs especially when it comes to dancing with women who lack tension in their arms. I tried not using my thumbs and it feels little awkward. What do you recommend?”

Well Mark here is my answer:

When you close your thumb or palm over the follower’s hands, the follower immediately relaxes their arms and, even subconsciously, thinks that because you have them they don’t need to do anything. The result is a follower with Spaghetti arms who won’t follow quickly and accurately your lead. So you may think that you have more control because you are holding on but in actuality the follower will not respond properly to your lead.

Instead, if you open your thumb and palms and curl your finger tips and try to have your partner create the same tension with only your fingertips, you will force your partner to create resistance in her frame to keep from letting go. The more often your partner lets you go the more she will strengthen her fingertips and create more resistance. So you may feel like it is out of control at first because you are losing your connection but eventually your partner will firm up her fingertips and frame and then you will have a partner who will follow you quickly and accurately.

In other words, it is worth the initial growing pains to get the right tension and frame so that you can move on to become a great intermediate and then advanced leader.

So followers and leaders, make sure you never use thumbs and palms and instead curl your fingertips slightly and pull a little to create consistent tension and resistance.

Hope that helps – happy practicing!