Salsa > Mad about salsa...but how do I get better?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by Snazz, Sep 22, 2003.

  1. Snazz

    Snazz New Member


    I've been a reading the postings here, and I think they're great!! Keep it up!

    I've started swing dancing but got into salsa 4 months ago when I moved and couldn't go to swing lessons any more. But, since I live in tokyo (which is notoriously expensive!!) I haven't been able to go salsa dancing as much as I liked. I try to practice some basic steps though...which leads to a problem. I don't if what I'm doing is right. I don't want to pick up bad habits that takes years to break.

    So, I'd be really grateful if you could help me out with a couple of pointers.

    1. I noticed that when I do the basic steps, my shoulders tend to move from up and down. I think it is partly because my arms are also moving. Is that okay, or am I suppose to keep my upper body straight.

    2. I was taught the basic steps with the feet side by side, but there was this teacher who taught the step with the feet one in front of the other, as if I were walking on a tightrope. Which is right? I he does LA style salsa.

    3. When I see people leading their partners I noticed that they move their arms a lot, but I've had some girls tell me that I'm not supposed to be moving my arms because it makes it hard for them to follow. In swing, we use our frames to move our partners. That's why we don't move our arms so much because it confuses the lead. Is that the same in salsa too?

    4. If you know any good exercises for me to practice on my own, I'd be really grateful.

    5. I learnt a lot about musicality in swing. Is there such a thing as that in salsa too?

  2. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hi Snazz! Welcome to the forums!

    Although I've been doing first ballroom-style and now club style salsa for couple years, there are several members of this forum much better qualified than I to answer your questions. So I am going to leave it to them.

    I just want to extend to you a warm dance forums welcome! :D

    I'm sure that, within a day or two, you'll have more responses than you can handle. :D

    Thanks so much for joining us in the forums. "See" you again soon.

  3. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Welcome to the Forums Snazz. :D

    If classes and or clubs are that expensive then I would suggest purchasing a salsa video on-line. At least it will give you an idea of how your body should be moving.

    1. Although there is a drop of the shoulders when you dance, it really isn't a significant one. Which leads me to think that you are probably trying to do attain cuban motion by moving the upper body(Shoulders) to create a swing of the hips. And/or doing the weird bend of the legs side to side, instead of bending the knees. Don't worry about the cuban motion (hips) right now, rather concentrate in understanding the basic step and the beat of the music. The cuban motion will come when you finally understand what your upper body and legs need to do to dance salsa.

    The hands should never be moving faster than your legs. The more you move the hands the harder it will be for the lower body to move freely and as desired.

    If you are not sure of how the body needs to move then stand up straight and only walk through the basic step. No motion of any kind except for the legs doing the basic. It will feel robotic, but it is best for you to understand the basic leg work right now. Only when you have mastered the basic steps do you need to start attempting any kind of cuban motion. Too many things going on at one time is too much right now.

    2- The basic step can be to the sides as well as the forward/backwards, however, it is my opinion that you should try the forward/backwards that you mentioned on Question 2 first. Although they are both basic steps, usually when someone mentions the basic step of salsa, they are referring to back and forth. (one foot in front of the other) your teacher taught you. I am assuming that you also mean going backwards to complete the basic.

    3- The motions you are referring to of the arms in partner work are most likely signals a leader must give a follower to make her aware of the direction she needs to go before performing any given move. Although there is a lot of hand-leading in salsa the frame also plays a vital role in leading techniques. If your arms are moving carelessly while doing partner work, you will miss his signals as well as he will have a harder time, or even fail to give you proper signals.

    Hope the 3 answers give you a little light.
  4. Snazz

    Snazz New Member

    Wow!! Thanks for the answers....didn't expect to get a reply this quick. :D

    Sorry, I wasn't clear about what I meant about the basic steps. What I wanted to ask was the position of the feet for the forward/backward steps. Most people I just end up with the feet close together side by side, but the one taught by one of my teachers was always having one feet in front of the other as if walking on a narrow plank. So, which is right?

    Also, do you have any recommendations for salsa videos?

  5. salsarhythms

    salsarhythms New Member

    Hi Snazz,

    First of all, welcome to the forums, it's great to have you

    Now, I read your question regarding the basic step, and I saw
    borinken respond...I'm not too sure about your second post, but
    if it helps, I've attached an explanation of the Basic Step as taken
    from the salsanewyork web site...bear in mind this is the basic
    step as done On 2...

    1st beat of the measure - The man steps back with his left foot. The woman steps forward with her right foot.

    2nd beat of the measure - The man steps farther back with his right foot, then changes direction, starting to lean forward with his body = "breaks forward on 2". The woman steps farther forward with her left foot, then changes direction, starting to lean back with her body = "breaking back on 2".

    3rd beat of the measure - The man steps in place with his left foot, while his body is moving forward. The woman steps in place with her right foot, while her body is moving backward.

    4th beat of the measure - No steps.

    5th beat of the measure - The man steps forward with his right foot, in front of his left foot. The woman steps backward with her left foot, behind her right foot.

    6th beat of the measure - The man steps farther forward with his left foot, then changes direction, starting to lean backward with his body = "breaks back on 6". The woman steps farther back with her right foot, then changes direction, starting to lean forward = "breaks forward on 6".

    7th beat of the measure - The man steps in place with his right foot, while his body is moving backward. The woman steps in place with her left foot, while her body is moving forward.

    8th beat of the measure - No steps
  6. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Hi Snazz…let me add my welcome as well! Glad to have you with us :D

    Here’s my take on your questions…

    1. Shoulder motion in salsa is OK, but what you don’t want is a side-to-side up and down. It’s also fine for the shoulders to stay still, but a rolling motion that comes form the foot/leg/body use is also acceptable. I agree with Boriken though, starting off with a more still upper torso is probably best.

    2. Is it possible that these are really the same thing? What I’m getting at is that one foot isn’t really placed in front of the other if the feet are parallel to each other (unless, perhaps, you’re stepping across your center line for a shine or to set up a spin, etc.), but it can look like they are if one is dancing with turnout and tight foot placement. Basically the heel of your front foot would be in a direct line forward from the toes of your back foot. From the front or the rear it will then look like the feet are in front of each other but, if you straighten them both back to parallel, they really are still on different tracks, and not really as if on a tightrope.

    3. I would say that salsa is closer to swing in this regard then it is different. Yes, there are some arm patterns that may only end up using fingers to signal changes but, by and large, its frame and center that direct the dancing. What you may be seeing is a natural swinging of the arms that comes form the foot and body actions (basically the same idea as how our arms do have a natural swing when we walk) but and intentional or extra arm swinging does make it more difficult to sense what signals you are trying to transmit…basically think of it as a car with its turn signal left on.

    4. Hmmm, not any that I think I can communicate well in writing. I’ll ponder this one though, and see if I can come up with something for you.

    5. Yes, yes, and YES!

    Hope that helps, and keep us posted :D
  7. brujo

    brujo New Member

    It really depends on the style and level that you are in. I highly recommend checking out the salsa video review site
  8. Danish Guy

    Danish Guy New Member

    As I read your post, both ways is right.

    Placing the feet side by side on the break is the normal for the basic mambo steps the “on 1”.

    Placing one foot in front of the other, or “hovering” over the break is the normal for the “on 2”.

    Take a look at what they are dancing on at the local clubs, and go for the style they use. To learn salsa it’s important to dance and have fun at the salsatheque.

    Salsarythms have a great "on 2" description.
    Here’s my short to Mambo on 1:

    Start standing relaxed, feet a little bit apart from each other. This is home, and where to spend the break. Don’t take to large steps, and don’t worry about centimetre detail.

    1. Left foot forward.
    2. Right foot replaced.
    3. Left foot home
    4. Pause.
    5. Right foot back
    6. Replace left foot.
    7. Right foot home
    8. Pause

    Take a look at some of the links under websites. There is one with links to free dance video clips.

    Welcome to the forum.
  9. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    Ummm yeah, they answered everything!! Welcome to our house Snazz :D
  10. Black Sheep

    Black Sheep New Member

    Improve your Salsa

    I'm a great believer in self teaching, given a few basic guide lines, and here are your basic guide lines:
    1) locate the first Quarter beat of each bar of 4 beats; it is the most predominant sounding.( 1,) 2, 3, 4
    2) take the first three steps with the 1st three beats of the bar in place, do not move on fourth beat, hold it in place;
    3) as you step in unison with first three beats, move your feet in any position and let your body go lose in any gyrations you want;
    4) eventually you will find yourself stepping forward with your left foot on the 1st beat of a bar, and stepping back on with your right foot on the 1st beat of the second bar of music.
    5) dance in front of a mirror without a partner as often as you can, and you will begun to get creative.
    6) When out with a partner doing the Salsa, stay in open position away from your partner and do your thing, Eventually you will get the hang of it and with the help of a few partners, you'll become more original and freer than if you paid heavy money to some charlatan teacher who will do you more harm than good. I believe dancing like any education should be free. I never paid for a ballroom dance lesson in my life, and I do them all. Lots of luck, and get out and do it NOW!
    Black Sheep, Free dance lessons for the masses, and war will become obsolete.
  11. Snazz

    Snazz New Member


    Now, I'm overwhelmed. No really, thanks a lot. I really appreciate your answers. :) I think I got most of them, although it's a little difficult to visualise some of the explanations.

    About the on 1 and on 2, this is the first time I'm hearing about it. From your explanations though, I think I'm doing the on 1.

    Actually, I live in tokyo right now, where I got my first taste of salsa. So, I'm quite curious to know if there're any differences in the types of salsa danced in different countries.
  12. Black Sheep

    Black Sheep New Member

    Mambo & Salsa

    You are obviously on the Salsa beat when you break on '1'.
    If you break and accent on '2' you are syncopating and are on a Mambo beat.
    Salsa Music is too fast a tempo to do Mambo to. I have done it but it does not feel good to me. The Mambo music of Tito Puente, and although he is the best known, I do not consider him a top Mambo band, but at least you can tell the difference in the beats (tempos) of the two dances. Thanks for your feed back. Cherck my web site <WWW.LINDYBYLANZA.COM>
    Black Sheep, how I love that Latin Beat!
  13. Danish Guy

    Danish Guy New Member

    There are a lot of different styles of Salsa, from the way it is danced in the Cuban villages, to Havana, to Columbia, to L.A, and to the New York Nightclubs. The difference can be so major, it can be difficult to dance together. But there’s also a lot in common. What you expect from the different styles is divergent from place to place. Many places is blending the different styles, taking what they think is the best from the different styles, and this way creating their own.

    So dance, learn, and most important, have fun with it.
  14. Danish Guy

    Danish Guy New Member

  15. sanji

    sanji New Member

    Hi Snazz,

    I, too, post in this forum for the first time, and also enjoy reading it for the last weeks. And I, too, live in Tokyo, which although expensive, is a really interesting place to learn / dance salsa. If you are interested, let me know, I can suggest you nice places (not too expensive) to learn and improve LA style.

    And I also would loke to get better, after about 2 months of lessons twice a week. I have 2 main problems.
    - First, I absolutely can not count, and basically rely on mt partner to do so (I know, that's not the best). Do you know if it is possible to find on the WEB salsa music on which the beats are clearly stated, for learning?
    - Second, I like to learn new patterns... but almost immediately forget them. I found a nice web site with the complete description of patterns (, but the fact that English is not my native language (as you could guess by reading my post, probably) and that there is no movie nor scheme attached to the patterns make them difficult for me to understand. Do you know a good combinaison of text / small movie to just learn new patterns and have fun doing so? I checked some of the stuff sold on the net, but nothing seemed attractive.

    Any suggestion would be really appreciated.

    And Snazz: perhaps we can meet at a lesson one day :wink:

  16. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Wow! I'm so glad I logged in in the middle of my night, just so I could meet you! :D Welcome to the forums sanji! :D :D
  17. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Great to have you joining us sanji! :D

    And don't be concerned about your english...clearly you speak "dance" just like the rest of us! :D :D :D
  18. salsaForfun

    salsaForfun New Member

    Hi Sanji,

    to count correctly you need to understand when the repetive sequence of salsa music starts. Once you identify the sequence and then you know the speed/tempo you can count correctly. For this you need to recongnize the instruments played in the salsa music. I will name two interesting songs and some training medias that might help you:
    the song "otra oportunitad" from Jimmy Bosch is very good. Not fast and you can hear the instruments distinctively. Cheo Feliciano has also the song Nabori which is also good.

    There are a few Training CDs out there:
    Mike Bello has a set of two CD --> : one of the CD explains the differents intruments. the second cd has counting along the song one time and one time without counting.

    Jai and Candy have a counting CD too --> (each song is played in different speed (3 actually) and for each song it is first played with whole counting (1-8) then counting only 1 and 5 (good for dancing on 1) then counting only 2 and 6 (good for on2 dancing). And there is also one time without counting. Good for practice

    Eddie Torres has a CD called Ear Training CD --> Here the counting schme is the same as jai and candy cd but song is played only at one speed. He add 8 songs without counting for practice. An intro to the clave is also given. has also a multimedia ebook which gives you a very good way to understand the instruments played in salsa and helps counting. From my experience it is very intuitive and helped me a lot. You need a computer for it.
  19. Danish Guy

    Danish Guy New Member

    Wellcome Sanji

    You speak dance loud and clear. :D

    I will spare Salsarythm this time, and give you a link to his page.

    There's some free stuff, and it looks like they got fine product. Besides Salsarythm is moderator of this forum, and contribute with a lot.

    See this thread for more rhythm tips.

    Check the 7 tips postings too.
  20. Snazz

    Snazz New Member

    Hi Sanji,

    Welcome to the forum!

    About your questions, I think I'll leave the answering to the experts. I've just kinda started too, so I don't think I'm in a position to give advice. But, as you can see from the answers here, there's no shortage of help. Thanks everyone!!

    You can download clips from the following sites:
    Also, thanks a lot for the link to the description of patterns. It's great as a reference!

    About dancing in tokyo, I usually dance at el cafe latino in roppongi, or at motomachi zero in yokohama. However, I've been able to dance only once a week, since I live pretty far away (in Yokosuka). How about you? If you know some cheaper places to dance, I'll definitely be interested. Yes, we should meet up sometime.

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