Salsa > Overwhelmed

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by cowpaste, Dec 19, 2003.

  1. cowpaste

    cowpaste New Member

    I've always been in love with Salsa music and dance, but I only recently started taking group lessons. In general, I am rather disappointed. The classes proceed way too slowly, and I feel sorry for the females who have to perform the same moves over and over under poor leading. Naturally of course, the stuff I learn in class is not exactly what I see in clubs. I feel like practicing the stuff I learn in class is a waste of time since I know that's not where I want to be...I want to dance the same styles I see in clubs. That's the Salsa I fell in love with.

    How in the world do I learn any of this stuff? People tell me to ask my latino friends. They say they learned it in high school. Well, I'm in college now. We don't have the same kind of free time like we did in high school, so I can't just ask them to teach me all the time (well I can, but I know they won't be able to). So...what's a poor guy like me to do?
  2. Have you tried any other schools in the area? Do any of the clubs offer lessons early in the evening?

    Also, when you are out in the clubs, you could ask people whose dancing you like if they have any suggestions for teachers. Or do you think that everyone whose dancing you really like learned from family, friends, improvisation, etc.? In that case, you mightbe out of luck until you can find someone with the time to teach you.
  3. salsarhythms

    salsarhythms New Member

    Cowpaste...don't worry, it'll come.

    The basics and fundamentals are most important especially
    if it's something that you are new to.

    I know things like the Basic Step are very boring after the
    500th time of doing it, but it really is building a foundation for
    you... you will also notice that once you can do these basic
    moves and steps very well, you'll learn to improvise and that's
    when the fun really begins...

    You've already got the desire, and that's half the battle...

    Remember, even though it may not feel like it, you are actually
    doing yourself a lot of good by sticking to the fundamentals first.
  4. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the forums cowpaste!! :) It is hard to suggest something without really knowing where you are in your salsa learning. As I have no idea of your skill level so if some of the advice I give seems to basic to you please take this into account.

    As salsarhythmns says the basics are important. It often doesn't seem so but the really good dancers out there know the fundamentals really well. That's why anything they do looks good.!! :)

    Having said that, let's are disappointed with the pace of group lessons and think that what you learn is not reflective of what you see in the clubs. Are there group lessons that you can take with other instructors, or perhaps more advanced classes? And what you are seeing at the clubs probably represents moves that you have learnt plus so much more, i.e. moves, and the all essential ingredient of dancing to the music, feeling the music.

    For people who don't grow up in the salsa culture the following steps can occur (copying what my dance teacher who dances like they dance at clubs says):

    1. Learn basic moves/technique, the tools for the toolbox, yourself, first to slow and then increasingly faster music.
    2. Perfect execution of moves in combinations, to the tempo of the music.
    3. Once you don't have to think about executing moves you can focus on feeling the music, and dancing with your partner.

    Now you know how to dance salsa.

    One thing that you can do is listen to salsa music. I found that listening to this music all the time helped me get used to it and my body was better able to respond appropriately while dancing. Learn how to identify the various instruments and which ones emphasize which beats, so you know how to dance the beat.

    Another essential part of dancing salsa, which will differentiate a gringo/gringa from a true salsero/salsera is cuban motion. There was some good discussion on this in the salsa forum, which helped me tremendously. One example is Help for the hips and another is Swaying the hip thing

    Then if you want to learn particular moves that you see in the clubs you could go on the web, purchasing videos, or using free video clips, such as at It helps to ahve a partner, but you can learn a lot by yourself.

    Yet, another aspect of dancing, is the times when both you and your partners dance solo, and you do shines. Again in our forums you can view the thread called Building a shine repertoire
  5. cowpaste

    cowpaste New Member

    I take lessons from one of the biggest dance studios in my city. They have great policies and prices. Sadly, they teach back-forward slotted Salsa. This is not the uninhibited stuff I see at the clubs. Street salsa is much more circular and free. Also, street salsa has a bunch of what I believe is called the Cumbia step (I hope that's the right name...I know it's a seperate dance). It's where they step backwards with both feet (not at the same time. :) ). I see the club dancers swapping back and forth between forward-backward salsa and that Cumbia step. I don't have a clue how they tell the girls to do this. I also notice they don't turn the girl 8 times in a row or whatever. It's more of a creation of some mystical bond between the dancers and the music. When I'm done dancing with a girl, I want her to feel satisfied...not dizzy.

    As for the music, I pretty much listen to merengue/salsa all the time now. I liked it the first time I heard it back in high school. Sadly, I was was too introverted and asocial to care about dancing at that time. Now am I am old and 20 and skill-less. Yay! I might as well throw in "girl-less" too. That will make my misery complete. Oh, and I did poorly academically this semester.... :(

    Shines are nice, but they are not my goal right now. I want to bond with the music and my partner. Eventually I would like to be able to do awesome shines to show off. :)

    My hips are so not gringo. (besides, I'm a super chino.) :) I move them more than many latin guys I see. In fact, a girl saw me doing the basic once and thought I knew how to dance. Boy was she in for a surprise. :(

    Maybe I just need to continue taking classes? Maybe my leading skills are just that poor right now. Maybe the more advanced stuff is applicable to clubs?
  6. brujo

    brujo New Member

    I see your problem. You are learning NY / LA style salsa. This might not be your cup of tea. You need to find someone who teaches Cuban style salsa. If you want videos, check out salsaville and salsapower. ( they are websites that can be found on Google - edited by DanceMentor). Here is the thing, you can take a million classes with NY / LA style instructors, and sometimes get really good at that style, but you will never dance like you see in the clubs because it is just a different style.

    My advice to you is to try to get as many merengue songs in as possible if you're not really comfortable with salsa yet, and make a point of meeting as many people in your group classes to go to clubs with as possible. Also look for socials and practice sessions that are outside of clubs. Most universities should have a student night of some sort. Nobody gets good right away, but you need to get out there and shake your asian butt to get better.
  7. cowpaste

    cowpaste New Member

    So am I correct in saying that club dancing is primarily Cuban style Salsa? If so, it is both good and bad news. The good news is that I now have a set goal: to learn Cuban style salsa. :) The bad news is that Cuba is a hard country to visit! :(
  8. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    NO! While what style is danced in any given area may be Cuban, I've seen plenty of LA and NY style dancing all over the U.S., in Toronto, in London, in Århus, and in Copenhagen! Actually, Århus and Miami may be the only places I've been where there wasn't clearly more non-Cuban dancing in the clubs.

    I think brujo is lumping LA and NY styles together as both generally rely on slotted movement [1], but by no means is this an absolute, despite what anyone may tell you to the contrary! LA based master salsa instructors Enio Cordoba and Terryl Jones [2], for instance, are strong proponents of rotational dancing. While I've never had a chance to take more then a group class or two form them (and some years back, at that) I too have found myself using a rotational cross body based style which I feel gives me the best of both worlds.

    My advice to you would be to just start dancing your basic in rotation. Then start leading various moves which you like while maintaining the rotation of your basic. You'll notice that some elements need to be changed up in order to accommodate the rotation while other elements are now easier but, in the long run, I think you'll develop a style more to your liking without having to rely on the more overt physicality often involved with Cuban style dancing.

    Best wishes and happy dancing!

    [1] Aside from this element there can be vast differences in the two styles, from the basic footwork count and pattern all the way up.

    [2] You can see several excellent articles she has written in the Articles forum.
  9. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Though I'm in NY I believe that I learnt Cuban style salsa as my instructor learnt salsa in Miami!! :) As for learning the circular style rather then backward/forward one suggestion is learning salsa rudea, salsa in a circle. Each partner makes small circles in the big circle that they dance. If you have a good instructor(s) he/she will emphasize that theme, and it could help out.

    As for stepping back, perhaps you are talking about 5th position/open breaks?

    Great!! I just wish more people would focus on that and not just learning fancy moves!! :)

    Cuban motion is not derived from hip movement, but the feet. My instructor did half an hour on this a while back. He told us we were shaking our hips, but the motion wasn't coming from our natural motion, but was isolated -- really obvious!! :( I'm still working on making sure that hip movement is naturally derived, rather then artificially generated and presented as an isolated movement. Still got a ways to go.

    I would definitely continue taking basic classes. That's a good strategy. The more advanced stuff is only applicable once you feel comfortable with leading and following simple moves. In my class often after teaching a move my instructor will play a song and let us practice. In addition to practicing the move taught I ask my class dance partner of the moment if we can mix it up by adding one/two other moves we have learnt in class. This way the follow does not know what move exactly I'm going to lead and I can practice leading, and get better at it. This has worked out well for me.
  10. cowpaste

    cowpaste New Member

    Argh! Now I'm more confused than ever! I just want to dance at the clubs and fit in.

    Is the Cuban motion from rolling your feet as you take a step? This is what I do...and it seems to cause my hips to move too! :)
  11. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Just to add to your confusion, the Cuban motion comes from bending and straigtening your knees alternately. One knee bent, the other straight. And you do also press the inside edge of the balls of your feet into the floor, as well.
  12. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the clairification for cowpaste. :oops: You are right. :oops: It is the movement of the legs and not emphasizing hip movement in isolation that produces cuban motion. A common mistake for many beginners. I had no problem with the bending of the knees - or that's what I thought anyway - but thinking of my feet made a world of difference, so sometimes I get a little forgetful!!
  13. Vin

    Vin New Member

    I can relate a bit, I have a problem leading when the follow does anything other than a backward/forward basic. Some women I have danced with have a backward/backward or Cumbia step(backward/right) basic and I find it very difficult to communicate that I want them to turn. I do alot of my dancing as sd said, rotating and I am happy with my style except that I just can't dance very well with some women whom I should be able to dance well with. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery.
    To make it more specific I generally start to lead my turns on the four by lifting my left hand. I had a woman tell me last night that she is used to being led with the other hand, that kind of confused me.
    Thanks for any input
    As for the op question, I agree, continue taking the classes and one thing that really helped me was to practice walking forward, backwards, and side to side in "salsa rhythm". It got me away from thinking as salsa as "forwards/backwards'. As for communicating the change to your partner, if I am changing from one style to the other I generally make the motion of the step I am about to take with my left hand if I am in open postition, and I haven't gotten the hang of doing this in closed position yet but it should be the same.
  14. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    What sort of turn are we talking about? Simple single CW and CCW turns? I don't think it is an issue of which hand being used, but probably one of how the turn is communicated. Both CW and CCW turn can actually be led by either hand. For instance, I make the follower do a right/CW turn with left hand, 5-8, then do a leader CW/right turn with hand held at waist level, 1-4, switching hands in the process, then lead the follower through a CW turn for her. Both the follower CW/right turns feel slightly different.
  15. Vin

    Vin New Member

    I am talking about a simple cw turn in standard open or closed position. What she was talking about was my right hand holding her left hand leading the turn. I have no problem leading with my right hand if we are in cross hand postion.
    I do that exact right hand turn combo you said, but sometimes some women just don't follow that first turn. And these are latin women who do hold the salsa rhythm at least decently. It is not often a problem but it is enough to cause some concern.
    I just realized I have only found this problem while dancing with women from mexico, what could it be about there style that does not mesh with mine?
  16. brujo

    brujo New Member

    In the LA style of salsa, you would hold her hand up to her eye level and kinda make a halo over her head. If she has taken lessons, she would naturally follow this. With most of the latin women I know, they never learned to turn like that, the way that I turn them is from the Cuban casino style, you let your body's momentum go towards one direction, without the requisite prepping that is in NY salsa, and then you pull her arm the other direction, almost the way you would pull open a door. It's just a way different styles mesh.
  17. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    cowpaste don't make this so difficult. Forget all the different styles...forget all the names of different moves. Keep going to those group classes practicing more basic moves over and over and over again! The pace is not to slow, you just have to put the time in to become expert at these more basic moves because they are the building blocks of EVERYTHING else!

    Now, once you've got those down you can translate them anyway you want. Want to dance with some Cuban style or Cumbia flava? Make your patterns more circular. Want to dance with LA or NY flava? Stay in the slot. Or you can be like a lot of us that can dance all those ways and adapt our style to the partner we're with. It's as easy as that.

    Oh, and as far as this mystical connection goes...has nothing to do with which one of those styles you're dancing and EVERYTHING to do with that particular lead. I dance primarily in the slot and don't drop excessive multiple spins.

    Good luck and just enjoy the salsa vibe!
  18. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Youngsta is absolutely right!! There is no need to get wrought up about cuban motion, what style you dance...etc. It's the basics. When I started I had all this information, but I ignored most of it. Way too much for when you are starting out. As I became more comfortable with some of the basics I expanded the areas I worked on. For instance, I just am realizing the implications of circular vs slot dancing, what it means to have an instructor who does Cuban style dancing...It's another "aha" stage, just as cuban motion was a while back.
  19. redhead

    redhead New Member

    One thing worth mentioning: try not to move your shoulders too much while learning to move your hips. I know a couple of guys who move their shoulders up and down on pretty much every beat and think it looks good. It looks funny, makes following more difficult and reduces your speed. Shoulders will come. Good luck and have fun!
  20. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Good to hear from you again redhead. :) It has been a while.

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