I always feel so good when I finish a level and while 9 weeks can just fly by, you learn so much that it would be a crime to lose that knowledge over the weeks from one level to the next. Here are a few practice tips that I use so that when I show up to the first class of my next level that I haven’t completely rusty.
Get a Wingman/lady : I was very fortunate to meet my good friend Mike in level 1. The great thing about having a salsa wingman is that you motivate each other to go out dancing, make sure you go to every class and you can bounce ideas off each other. Some of my best salsa memories were hitting up Alleycats or 6 Degrees after Mike had somehow convinced me that I wasn’t too tired for dancing on a weeknight.
Get a Practice Partner : I find that having a practice partner speeds up your learning by a million. By going over your moves together, you quickly improve your leading/following skills, you can break down the moves/combos and will always have someone to learn the outing turn patterns with. You don’t much space to practice and there’s always a salsa night going on every night of the week.
Get out there : Someone once said to me that shooting baskets through a hoop isn’t basketball and if you really want to be a good dancer, you need to do it with others. Not only will you become a greater dancer, you will also see how people from other schools dance, style and interact. If you’re a leader, you need to get out as much as possible to perfect the skill. The best part of getting out there is that you will meet a million new people who all want to dance with you!
Salsa in the city : There are a ton of places that have practice socials (TDS has a great one Sunday evenings), but there are a ton of salsa practices throughout the week where it’s a no-pressure learning environment.
Write it down : One thing that helped me was to write down the moves I learned in class. Once I got home I’d boot up word or grab a piece of paper and write something like this:
Ladies Right Turn:
1-2-3: Prep the Right Turn using a J-stroke (left arm makes a J type movement and ends up in a high-five position), do normal salsa basic steps.
4-5-6: Apply a little pressure and give the girl a right turn by drawing a little halo over her head, complete the basic by stepping back on 5.
Writing everything down will help you remember the moves as well as serve as a cool database when you’re working on putting combos together.
Mirror, Mirror : Practicing at home should be a standard for all dancers. What I did was instead of doing 20-60 mins of cardio on the treadmill, I replaced that with salsa practice and then hit the weight room.
The best way I found practicing at home was to replicate the warm-ups that you do at the beginning of every class, starting with your basics and working in all of your shines. I find the best way to improve your movement is to practice in front of a mirror and watch yourself dance. Seeing yourself in a mirror while you practice will give you a sense of how you’re moving and where to improve. You will improve your spotting, shoulder, hip and arm movements and topping it off by smiling while you dance.
Ask questions : While you’re practicing you’re going to go from knowing the moves to understanding why we do the moves. Cross Bodies aren’t there just to look pretty, they serve both transitional and protective purposes. The point here is that as you practice things are going to come up in which you may need the advise of the experienced dancer.
Who ya gonna call? Start with your instructors and helpers in class. They are there to answer your questions and will do their best to get you up to speed. Another option are the forums on this site. These forums are filled with a massive library of questions and advise that have amassed over the years. Yet another option is to ask your questions on this blog and I will do my best to answer (even if that means I go to the top and get Sharon and Evan’s advise). The more you ask, the better your understanding so fire away!
Youtube & Online resources : Need music, new moves or ideas? Check out youtube by typing ‘salsa’ into the search bar and you’ll get a million videos. Some will be great, some not so great. I find that I catch the SYTYCD and DWTS routines on Youtube as I have little time to catch tv shows.
These are just a few ideas to start with but if you have any practice tips, feel free to comment them!
Stay Shining Salseros!