One thing that isn’t clear to many dancers (especially beginners) is that Salsa (and some other dances) are slotted. The two dancers remain in a slot or “grove”. This is a cool system since a dance floor can accommodate more people that way.
The lady goes back and forth on a line. Just switching place with the guy. The guy has to get out of the way so that she can get back and forth nicely.
Another outcome of this dance meme is that the lady is for the most part strutting back and forth (walking in a forward direction). This looks really nice. That’s why the guy has to be out of the way and manager the situation in a way that she’s never going backwards. Ladies don’t look as nice walking backwards (or sideways like a crab). 🙂 [Also, beginners, not that when the lady walks past the guy, she does not attempt to face him. That’s why they call the step “Dile que no” – “Tell him no!”]
Here’s an example. They don’t stay on the slot perfectly all the time because he’s not always out of the way and also because they have the whole floor so they’re not worrying about it too much. But you can get the idea.
There’s another subtly that is most important and if you think about it, it can improve your leading or following skills. Because the lady in theory knows that she is either going to be in place or will transfer across in the direction of the guy (to change position), this makes it easier to figure out what the guy is leading. I’ve had the occasional time in a club where a beginner or intermediate dancer will suddenly take off at 45 degrees in a spin instead of transferring over to where I am (to change positions). What’s happening is that they can’t understand the lead since a given impulse can be interpreted many ways if they don’t know there is actually only one direction I will lead her in.
This is a great example because when you lead a lady by the shoulder, she doesn’t have much information compared to closed position. A given impulse could be a turn and it could be a signal to transfer. The combination of what count the impulse comes on with it’s strength is enough given that there is the slotted constraint on the dance. Without that constraint a given impulse could be interpreted to spin off in any direction.
Another example. This is a show so there are a few exceptions.