How to become really good salsa dancer?

That's the question that troubles me for some time :headwall: . Let me give you some background first. I'm dancing salsa more then 2 years now. When I started salsa scene in my town was quite small. Now we have some salsa schools with several hundreds pupils. I may say now that I'm quickly becoming a representative of the older generation of salseros.

It has it's good side, but bad side as well. Good side is that I am one of the most valued dance partners as I am at the instructor level at my town :ladiesma:. The bad side is that I am at the instructor level and there is no local male dancer that I can learn from. Still there are few better salseros then me but they tend toward the salsa style that I do not apreciate so much (LA style with multiple solo men's spins, or salsa with some funky and hip hop elements). And I'm afficionado of NY style. If you want an example of dancer that I admire you may check this video clip.

I must say that we have quite often salsa workshops with foreign instructors but it's really hard to learn much from them. It would be completly different (I belive) if I had a chance to take regular classes with them (2 or 3 times a week for example) and observe them during salsa parties every night.

It's even more irritating that we know our weak sides here. There is a modest number of good leaders in my town but none of them has broader dance background. So even though we securely and gently lead really complicated turn pattern we don't look very good. We lack the style, good posture and don't execute all those fancy afro/rumba moves in a proper way (isolation exercises are still fresh thing for us) :? . By contrast our salseras look generally much better. We have some world class salsa female dancers that even teach ladies styling abroad. But they usually danced most of their lives (ballet, jazz, flamenco, ballroom etc).

So let me enumerate means I undertaken to achieve the goal of becoming good salsa dancer:

- workshops and congresses with foreign instructors
- private salsa classes with one of our best female salsa dancer
- watching a lot of video clips with good salsa dancers
- isolation exercises at home and practing some common salsa and rumba moves to execute them properly
- and last but not least dancing a lot :D

I'm also thinking about correcting my dance by video taping myself but it's really thrilling experience :shock:.

I'm very curious whether anyone have/had similiar problem like me. And I'm even more curious whether and how you overcame it. I would be also grateful for any advice from you.


New Member
Besides having the foreign instructors visit you, you can always go visit them, too!

European Salsa congress, anyone? :wink:


Active Member
All the salseros might jump on me for this, but have you considered taking lessons with a ballroom teacher? Even though it's salsa that you want to do, learning latin at a good ballroom studio would be a great place to work on the things that it sounds like you're struggling with - posture, moving with style, balance, and cuban motion. These are fundamentals that can be applied to any latin dance - salsa or ballroom. If there are any good ballroom studios around you you might consider taking a few lessons on fundamentals with one of their latin teachers.
I can mostly just see shadows in you video, it's too dark (although great song :lol: )
Anyway, you seem to already have lots of good things to try so you're probably making progress.
I like the ballroom suggestion for women simply because I admire a couple of ladies in my scene who ooze grace and poise because of their ballroom/ballet background. Although I'm not sure how much it helps might help you understand how your posture and arm postions affect your lead, or maybe modifying basics (e.g. learning how to glide instead of stomping across the floor)...but I haven't run into that many guys who with a strong ballroom background who also have the qualities you're seeking at an advanced level

But if you're looking to incorporate african derived movements into your style then I defintely suggest other avenues of instruction in addition to that sort of training:
- such as using instructional videos of afro-cuban/brazillian/peruvian dances. You can learn how and when the body isolation techniques come into play while dancing - it's practical and fun, and you can imitate them until it feels/looks natural. for guys you're proably looking for material that teaches how to hold and move your shoulders/ribcage both in upright and bent positions (hard to explain in writing)

- find out local spots where cubans go. in big cities you'll find rumba gatherings and cuban clubs that aren't really part of the mainstream salsa scene. this is where the real deal is at :) it can be quite refreshing just observing and absorbing this type of environment

Also it could be expensive attending all those workshops & congresses where you hardly ever remember anything they taught (especially now that video-taping is generally frowned upon) so just purchase advanced instructional videos/dvds from those NY instructors whom you admire (many sell at congresses or via mail contact)

- I would also suggest jazz & hip-hop if you're into footwork, to help develop rhythm, but you don't sound like you like those could try videos also

finally, keep it simple. I say this because a lot of ppl try to imitate body movement that is natural to someone else (and not to themselves) so they end up looking too busy on the dance floor.
How can i say this....if you don't have that 'natural' rhythm you can still look good by keeping things smooth and simple (i.e. don't shake your booty overly much ;) and just focus on framing your lady partner )
I like the suggestions of taking OTHER kinds of dance classes. I think it's my dabbling in other areas, mainly hip hop and bellydancing, that allowed me to glide into salsa, and I use all those things to continue to build my style. I have gotten quite a bit of surprise that I've only been dancing salsa for 7.5 months (and not taken a class yet), so apparently it's working for me (until I can take a class). Also, I was VERY Inspired by my recent visit to the Chicago Congress; it'd be very cool to diversfy the instructors/styles from which you learn.


Active Member
The idea of taking african and hip-hop dance lessons is good, too - but Slawek was saying that he could securely lead but didn't look good doing it - a ballroom/latin coach could help him to work on how to lead without distorting his own dancing. Just my 2 cents.
If you are really really serious about wanting to develop as a dancer, it would be a good idea to take some technique classes like jazz and/or ballet. To become a really good dancer, you need some foundation and technique classes are going to help. Afro-haitian, hip-hip and even ballroom will add to your style and isolation movements, but so will jazz dance. But, jazz or ballet is where it's act if you really want to take your Salsa dancing seriously. Like your female dancer friends, they are where they're at because of their dance training background. They don't have the salsa dance training, but they are able to develop faster as a Salsa dancer because they have the know-how about the foundation of dance. Once you have that under your belt, you have more knowledge about how to develop your own unique style.


Active Member
You've mentioned workshops and congresses with foreign instructors -- one possible avenue to explore is to find out if you can take private lessons with such instructors at these occasions. I've heard that it's sometimes possible to arrange privates with visiting instructors by contacting them in advance.
Thank you for your posts. Below I will try to comment most advices I got. As for video clip I'm sorry for the quality (it was taped in dark room), but I belive that if you turn brightness on your monitor to 100% percent it will become fairly visible.

1. Comming to salsa congresses - of course I do that, usually 3 or 4 congresses a year, maybe not the biggest ones, mainly those that are not far away from my living place but still with big names. Moreover video recording is still not forbidden on them :) So it is not that I remember nothing, just it is really hard to learn from such events the elements I want to learn now (body movement for example). This events are to big, to crowded with almost no personal teacher-student relation.

2. Afro, afro-haitan dance classes. It hard to find good instructors here. I've seen one girl that is good in afro dances. But she teaches mainly some orthodox afro dance from eastern africa that are different from the afro moves used in cuban rumba. But I belive it is very useful advice.

3. Rumba classes and finding some cuban instructors. There are not to many Cubans here. And if they teach anything it is rather cuban salsa or cuban hip hop. Hopefully a friend of mine teaches cuban salsa with his cuban wife and we finally pursuaded her to organize some rumba workshop. But rumba is really hard for me to learn mainly because unlike salsa it is not danced in clubs. You may only train it at home and later try to smuggle some moves to dance floor.

4. Hip hop classes - that's the thing I definitetly want to take. I belive it will improve my body movements but I have to be careful because I'm not great fun of salsa/hip hop mixtures.

5. Balllet classes - don't you think I'm to old for this? I've never heard about ballet classes for adult guys.

6. Jazz classes - there was even organized a special jazz course for salsa dancers here. But most of my friends who attended it resigned after 2 months. They argued that dance instructor forced them rather to dance jazz that learn some useful jazz techniques :x Also I would say that some basic jazz techniques are very different from salsa techniques (for example multiple spins). I know a girl who's been dancing jazz for two years and in my opinion her jazz classes didn't benefit her salsa dancing at all.

7. Ballroom dance classes - that's what my friend suggested me. He lives in different town and is a great salsa dancer (definitely the best in my country). He has 16 years of background in ballroom dance and was with his partner in top latin dance couples in Poland before they switched to salsa. Also I don't want to learn ballroom dance, just some ballroom dance elements that can be useful in salsa. So I't might be a little difficult to find a good teacher that is aware of this fact. But this advice is worth to be consider.

8. Instructional videos - of course I have a lot of them. Also most of them are just videos with turn patterns.

9. Private lessons with foreign instructors - that is what my friend lately started to do. They cost a lot but I must say I see a great progress in his salsa dancing.

At the end I would say I belive that I am making progress. But for it just so slow that I am a little frustrated. But I understand that everything needs time.
delamusica said:
All the salseros might jump on me for this, but have you considered taking lessons with a ballroom teacher?
Far from jumping on you, delamusica, I've been thinking of doing that for quite a while, and I'm going to do it as soon as my local studio that teaches ballroom is taking on new students (not for a month or two yet.)

I have a particular problem with salsa, and that is posture. I'd already developed bad postural habits before I took up dance - slumping my shoulders, not keeping my head up etc - and, though I work a lot on them and am improving, I find them hard to break. Some friends who dance ballroom had suggested I try that, because there is SO much emphasis on good posture and moving with grace and style. So I've watched a bit of it, and I really think it will help. Apart from anything else, I just fancy trying something new - it will keep my interest levels up if nothing else.

So, I second your advice to Slawek. I think he should give ballroom a go. He's got nothing to lose - even if it doesn't help his salsa he'll probably have fun anyway, and it will increase his knowledge of dance in general.:D
As I mentioned, if and only if you are really serious about improving your dance, would you want to take it to the jazz and ballet technical level. The people who you mentioned took the jazz class was in their for 2 months and the girl for 2 years, that really isn't enough time to make a huge difference. In the end, to become a good dancer, it really comes down to your dedication. Having the technical know-how is just the beginning. The knowledge, discipline and dedication to dance and desire to improve are huge factors. How long it takes before you improve depends on your own natural ability.

Taken into consideration that you don't have many resources in your area to learn from other experienced Salsa instructors, I mentioned Jazz dance and Ballet. Ballet is not just for young girls or boys. Look at Baryshnikov. But, of course you have to take into consideration what you are comfortable with. My point is if you are really serious about improving then jazz and ballet are good foundation points to start. In the big cities like LA, NY, SF -- many salseros have a strong dance background other than just Salsa.
:) That thing with "training with a ballroom instructor" is indeed good advice, but...

I have indeed tried to ... and all I got was "learning steps". When I asked about techinque and styling, they said "this comes in time, now you learn steps"... :evil: So I quit!
all that was written b4 is good advice..

but salsa (and other street latin dances) is foremost an attitude(s) and flavor .. and one can never be special untill they get their personality/ individuality to shine thru all the moves and patterns..

learn.. practice.. observe.. feel.. understand.. connect .. get creative.. get free.. get awsome.. u got to have the instinct for it .. crave it.. neeeed it.. express the PASSION! :bouncy:


New Member
Here comes a hard one:

Put your video camera on a stand and film yourself dancing several sorts of basics. Just yourself without partnering. Look at it, try to find out what you like and what not, and repeat. And maybe you repeat this just wearing your underpants ... :)

This is cruel but beneficial ... and you will notice a lot more than in the mirror. Be your own judge and teacher - and also maybe you will find out that the things your former teacher told you were true ... :shock:

Another one:
Consider going to a salsa festival but try to get contact with a teacher you like before and let them know that you would like to take some privates. Maybe you even do not go to the classes, just one or two privates. You can do that also when wellknown teachers come to your area. This may be not much more expensive than the classes but much more individual.

One more:
Try to find some original latino dancer (can be a teacher but does not have to be) in your area and ask him to teach you basic steps. In my town there are some that could not dance nor teach many patterns or so, but they listen to the music, and they move manly, if you know, what I mean. Learn by watch and copy, and integrate into your style what you like.
Sabor said:
all that was written b4 is good advice..

but salsa (and other street latin dances) is foremost an attitude(s) and flavor .. and one can never be special untill they get their personality/ individuality to shine thru all the moves and patterns..

learn.. practice.. observe.. feel.. understand.. connect .. get creative.. get free.. get awsome.. u got to have the instinct for it .. crave it.. neeeed it.. express the PASSION! :bouncy:
inspiring and true
HF said:
Here comes a hard one:

Put your video camera on a stand and film yourself dancing several sorts of basics. Just yourself without partnering. Look at it, try to find out what you like and what not, and repeat. And maybe you repeat this just wearing your underpants ... :)
But if you do, remember to erase the tape after or you could have a lot of explaining to do at the next family video night. :lol:
Ok Slawek I just rewatched the video with improved brightness
I think you guys look very nice :) you're keeping moves simple and fairly clean.

But there's something bothering me about the basic step for both you and your partner in the video. I can't quite put my finger on it...anyone else notice?
It happens alot in the middle almost every time you complete a turn pattern, you and the girl both hesitate slightly until the next audible '2', and then you both kind of shake hips to the side
I see this a lot with folks that try to imitate the hip action without doing the ETon2 footwork that causes/enhances the side to side motion

- I also notice you both get off time/beat sometimes so maybe practicing the ET2 basic is still essential, instead of just moving the hips (both girl & man)

- I really like your footwork & styling, very NY, clean. but it almost looks a bit lazy sometimes, lacking that extra omph because you seem to just stand there watching your partner. I think learning how to use the shoulder and moving the ribcage (like in afro dances) will help you fix that

- I think you could add a lot more spins with that kinda of song. it makes things look more flavorful than they actually are, look & feel more dynamic, faster. it can be effective for covering up timing issues. Of course I'm assuming you know how to lead & recover spins with good technique (although you can never have too much practice)

all in all very nice, I would have a great time dancing with you :)

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