I was the biggest dummy in Salsa dancing. As a result, I was the slowest learner. I started at the school that I run right now, and I repeated every level multiple times. Although back then our school had the simplest way to learn Salsa, I wish my instructor had taught Salsa as if it was for dummies.
When I started to dance more and more, I felt frustrated that other people kept growing faster than me, 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.
These are my Salsa dancing for dummies tips.
First tip: Dance like a T-Rex.
I want you to imagine you getting on a bus. You’d never have your knees locked as the vehicle is moving. You’d have your knees unlocked, and yet when first start dancing, it’s like we first get on the ice, our knees are locked, and we go as far away from the ground as possible. You can’t do that with Salsa.
So I think of it as dancing like a T-rex which means while you’re standing tall, I want you to bend your knees and then pull your butt back. So your pelvic bone sits back, kind of like you’re resting or perching on a table. From this position, you should feel your weight mainly on your quads and calves. On the contrary, if you are standing straight, you should feel your weight more in 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. In fact, in most dances, it’s like that they’re just floating across a dance floor, and it’s one of those things I had to practice over and over and something I always teach in my Salsa level one class.
Every time you go up to a new partner, during dance class or out of social dancing, as soon as you touch their hands, you bring your pelvic bone and knees down as if you just got on the ice, so your center of gravity sits low. My suggestion is to practice it repeatedly, every time you touch a person on the dance floor and if you’re at home and you touch any surface, a table or chair, as soon as you make contact, you sit, and you sit, and you sit and over and over and over until your body learns the muscle memory, just like getting on the ice you want to be the center of gravity low.
So, practice dancing like a t-rex to keep your center of gravity low is my Salsa dancing for dummies’ first and biggest tip.
Second tip: Imagine someone calls your name.
Please note, I’m teaching this on leaders timing, Salsa LA style on one count.
One of the most challenging things in Salsa are turns, and I would fall over all the time.
When I was a student, my instructors would correct me, saying things like “turn with your core” or “twist more,” and I really couldn’t understand or visualize the instruction. Part of it is that I wasn’t connected to my body. I was taking dance classes to be more connected to my body, but I was still learning, and they were trying to explain it to me in terms that I just could not yet understand.
So, here’s the hack I found.
I want you to bring down your pelvis again and sit in the T-Rex position. Then, I want you to extend your left foot slightly forward with your toes as if you’re testing the water on a jacuzzi. So you put no weight or about 5% of your weight in your left foot. Now with that foot tap in front, At that moment, I want you to imagine someone calling your name. What do you do? You just twist over, right? You turn your head; you turn your body and your feet.
Again, I want you to imagine someone calling your name over your right shoulder, and you twist your body for half a turn. All right, reset. Do that again, again and again; it is just a half turn to teach yourself that what you are turning with is your belly button. I didn’t get that. I kept thinking about kicking off with my feet, and I will always fall out of pace.
To make your turns better, you’re going to turn with your belly button instead of twisting and pushing off with your feet. So I call this technique “Imagine as if someone’s calling your name” because naturally, if someone calls your name, you just twist over, and your feet come along for the right?
Third tip: Ball to heal. Not ball to toes.
This technique confused me for the longest time. Whenever I was dancing, I just felt like I was in a rush, and when I would be turning my partners, I’d be off-balanced. I had the feeling that I couldn’t quite make it until I learned that I needed to sit back.
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, the problem is as you are doing Salsa basics, you’re fighting gravity because as you’re going forward and back, you’re trying not to fall, and so you’re tilted forward. So, it’s kind of like you’re on rollerblades or ice.
If you tilt too much forward, your legs come out of you, and you fall flat. Now, in Salsa, that would not necessarily happen. Fortunately, we have enough friction on the ground, but it’s one of the tips that help me massively.
One way to think of it is you’re sitting in a chair, and your chest is leaning straight up. Now you have good posture, the opposite of computer posture, where you tend to sit concave in and lean forward. So next, I want you to practice as you’re standing in T-Rex position; I want you to pull your chin in instead of forward. To visualize the difference in posture, you may want to stand in front of a mirror, sit in a T-Rex position, take the index finger of your left hand 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. Still, since these tips are easier to understand if you see them, I hope you join our school, where I work on these basic techniques in fun, creative and joking ways because dancing is about fun.
When I started, I didn’t focus on having fun. I just focused on getting the skills, and when I look back, the thing I regret the most is not the obsession, not the hard work, but I didn’t celebrate myself enough. So celebrate yourself in small wins and minor adjustments,
I can’t wait to see you, meet with you and dance with you on the 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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