Salsa Dancing for Dummies
Sounds insulting,“Salsa Dancing for Dummies.” But I was the biggest dummy and slowest learner in Salsa class. I repeated every level multiple times. When I started to dance I felt frustrated that other people kept growing and learning more quickly than me. So instead of complaining and feeling like a dummy, I started to figure out shortcuts that became the techniques I now share in my classes. So believe me there is no insult intended. Just helpful hints to help you in your Salsa Dance journey.
Dance like a T-Rex.
This tip sounds ridiculous but I promise it makes sense. When you skate or rollerblade or get on a bus, your knees are bent because they act as shock absorbers and help keep you stable and grounded. You want that same position when Salsa dancing.
So assume the “T-Rex” position. Stand tall, now bend your knees and pull your hips and butt back. Almost like you are leaning against an imaginary stool. Because your pelvis is back, you should feel your weight in your quads and calves. There should be very little weight or pressure on your knees.
I was never taught this, so I would move like a bear dancing Salsa. I’d be stiff. I’d be unstable. And when you look at great Salsa dancers, it’s like they’re skating. They ebb and flow across the dance floor.
It will take practice and conscious thought. Every time you go up to a new partner, assume the T-Rex position as soon as you touch their hands. Or practice at home by actually leaning against a stool or a wall or a couch or something. This will build muscle memory and it will become habit.
Turn by imagining someone calls your name.
One of the most challenging things in Salsa are right turns, I had the hardest time staying balanced. So, here’s the hack I found. Please note, I’m teaching this on leaders timing, Salsa LA style on one count.
Assume your T-Rex position. On the one count, your left foot goes forward – but for a turn it is more of a tap. Think of it like you are testing the water in a pool or lake that’s really cold. You don’t want to commit so you put almost no weight on it – maybe 5%. At that moment, I want you to imagine someone behind you calls your name. What do you do? You twist to the right to see who called. You turn your head, then your body, then your feet. That’s the two count
Now someone calls you from the opposite direction. So again you twist to the right. You turn your head, then your body and then your right foot comes home. That’s the three. All right, reset. Keep practicing. Think of it more as a long twist where you turn with your belly button.
Ball to Heal
So this third tip comes from the idea that as you’re sitting in the T-Rex position, you want your weight, your center of gravity to be between the ball of your foot back into your heel.
You would think that it’s better to lean in because Salsa is so fast. But then you are always fighting gravity. So if you keep your weight back in your heels, you will be more grounded.
Part of this is having good posture. Here is a way to practice. You can start by sitting up straight in a chair and then move to doing it in the T-Rex position. Pull your chin back. It’s simple but it works. Take your left index finger and place it on your chin and pull your chin back. Side note this is a good neck exercise if you work too much on the computer and you’ve got a little bit of that hunchback in your neck.
As you pull back, your weight should shift into your glutes, into your quads, into your calves.
If you keep the weight there when doing your basic steps, or your turns, or as a follower when performing your crossbody leads, you will flow across the dance floor.
Practice the three tips I just shared with dedication, and even if you were, or are a dummy, like I was, I’m sure your dance will improve. Celebrate the small wins. You will see the improvement.
If Bachata is more your style, check out Bachata Dancing for Dummies.
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