A Simple Guide to Dancing Salsa

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The season of celebrations, parties and dancing is on its way and soon you won’t be able to go a day without putting on your favorite dress and sparkly shoes. If you’re already lookin’ fine, the best way to seize the evening is take on the dance floor. And while we do agree that some freestyle dancing or even a slow romantic dance with your lover is never a bad idea, there’s something about salsa that will make you want to dance it every time it fits the rhythm… and even when it doesn’t. So, today, we are going to teach you how to do it – and trust us, you’ll be stunned by how easy it actually is. Now the only thing left is to find a dancing partner… or make one by teaching him.

Why should you learn how to dance salsa?

This one is so easy to answer: because it’s super-fun. That’s it. Dancing, not just salsa – but dancing altogether – is the ultimate therapy. There is no way to stay in a bad mood while dancing. The good thing about salsa, though, is that chances of a slow, sad song that will remind you of a past love and bring tears to your eyes are pretty much non-existent. Salsa equals fast, happy music; it equals excitement and a lot of twists, turns and smiles. It can, though, be very romantic – if your partner holds you close and looks deeply in your eyes while doing a simple yet effective step – trust us, you’ll feel the butterflies.

Also, learning how to dance salsa will boost your confidence in a way you wouldn’t have imagined. It’s just that feeling of knowing that you can’t go wrong (and if you get the basics, just the basics – you can’t) and that you can relax, smile and be sexy is such an ego booster that everybody is going to stare in your direction. You can wear whatever you want, whether a short dress or shorts and high heels and still look astonishing.

A couple dancing salsa a the beach

This could be you…

Counting to salsa beat

Let’s just say: it may seem like the basics look nothing like the video above, but when you learn it, all you have to do is repeat it in various positions and directions. It’s really that simple. It may take you some time to get the hang of it and feel confident enough to try even the most complicated figures, but once you do, you’ll remember these words.

The first thing you need to learn when it comes to salsa (or any other dance, for that matter) is counting to music. Listen to it and try to hear the beat. Music for salsa has eight beats and the steps can be counted differently depending on the style. We’re going to talk today about Los Angeles style, and here, the steps go on 1, 2, 3 and 5, 6, 7 – and you pause at 4 and 8. So, play a song with salsa rhythm and start practicing. Choose something slower for starters or just count without music at first. Once the music starts, don’t try to start dancing immediately: first count for a few times and be sure you have it right, because trust us, if you get it wrong, everyone is going to notice. And there are only a few things worse than dancing off beat. We don’t want you doing that so here’s help for getting the beat right.

Get some pro tips from JoelSalsa…

To make sure you have it right, a good exercise is clapping. After you’ve watched Joel’s tutorial, you should be pretty good at figuring out how to time it, so now – practice. Clap your hands at 1, 2, 3 and 5, 6, 7. Pause at 5 and 8 in order to follow your future steps.

Another thing you can try is marching to the beat of the music. Just step right-left-right and try to follow the rhythm until you are positive you know it by heart. Step your feet at 1, 2, 3 and 5, 6, 7 and pause at 4 and 8. The thing is, you should be absolutely certain you know the counting perfectly before you continue to dancing. Like we already said, this is the part where you are never supposed to go wrong. To make sure you don’t – practice, practice, practice. And once you are sure, move on to the most important and most fun part.

Salsa Basics

A couple dancing salsa in a club

How to dance salsa 101

Now that you learned how to count the beats of salsa music, the next thing is the steps. The starting position in salsa is just simple standing and holding your partner’s hands between your bodies, relaxed. In this article we will offer both the steps for the girls and the guys, so in case you need to teach your better half, you’re covered.

Men are in charge when it comes to dancing – which is another thing you need to learn. They lead and you follow. The only thing that he needs to do to make you do what he wants is be a good leader and give you the right signals at the right time – and you’re good to go.

So, here is how the men’s step goes…

  1. Break forward with your Left Foot
  2. Rock back onto your Right Foot
  3. Step back with your Left Foot
  4. Shift your weight onto your Left Foot
  5. Step back with the Right Foot
  6. Rock forward onto your Left Foot
  7. Step forward with your Right Foot
  8. Shift your weight onto your Right Foot

And you, ladies – you are going to do the opposite. Since your man is going to start moving forward with his left foot – you need to move back with your right. The point is in harmony, you move together, you depend on each other and you look like one when you do so.

In other words, your steps are:

  1. Step back with the Right Foot
  2. Rock forward onto your Left Foot
  3. Step forward with your Right Foot
  4. Shift your weight onto your Right Foot
  5. Step forward with the Left Foot
  6. Rock back onto your Right Foot
  7. Step back with your Left Foot
  8. Shift your weight onto your Left Foot

Take time to coordinate and learn how to move together. It will be fun and it will allow you to get to know each other’s style, as well as learn to listen to each other’s bodies.


A couple dancing salsa

Success comes before work only in the dictionary.

Now that you got the basics, the one thing you shouldn’t do is go straight ahead to the first salsa party you can find. No – you need to practice. We know it might seem like a pain in the ass to devote so much of your time to something that’s supposed to give you pleasure and fun, but you know what they say – good things come to those who wait. They forgot to mention: and to those who practice. If you really want to own the dance floor, you’ll have to make sure you feel the salsa spirit – and the only way to do that is by spending some time with the music, the steps and your partner. This last part is optional, though – it is, of course, great to practice with someone, but the point of learning how to dance a social dance that salsa is – is to be able to dance with whomever, whenever, wherever. A good dancer won’t have a problem switching 10 different partners during the evening and will be able to dance well with all of them – provided they know how to lead.

Another thing…

A couple dancing salsa black and white

Once you get it, you’ll see what “fun” means.

What we showed you today is just the beginning of the dance called salsa. From here on, you’re on your own. Do your research, search YouTube for fun videos showing different figures and see which ones you like. Try them out and try to really get what salsa is all about. Try the basic turns and other easy yet effective figures. You’ll feel amazing, trust us. Get dressed and go out, have fun and enjoy yourself.

Also, we did mention that making some mistakes might make you feel a bit bad but the thing is – it isn’t really important if you are having fun. So if you think the best way for you to practice is just to go out and break the ice immediately, go for it! Also, only by dancing a lot, only by spending time in this spirit and this atmosphere are you going to get better. You don’t need to be the world champion to have fun – you only need to do the best that you can, and want. And trust us, the feeling of excitement, energy and happiness that you’ll feel during and after dancing to a great song with a super dancer is something that can’t be described in words. Hopefully, you’ll experience it yourself.

A couple dancing salsa

Good luck!

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