If you’re thinking about learning Salsa, it’s easy.
Here’s the basic step in video format.
A few things to think about.
The most important thing is not the direction of stepping. It’s weight transfer. You need to transfer your weight 6 times to complete a step. If your a leader you’ll be deciding on the direction of the steps. If you’re a follower, you’ll be picking up the information from the leader on which way to go.
I’m not a huge fin of the Cuban style since it takes much more space. For example in this video you can see that the couple needs 4×4=16 tiles of space. New York or LA style would only need 2×4=8. That’s 1/2 the space. Seems like nothing but when the dance floor gets full I don’t think it’s fair to take twice as much space as everybody else.
I hear that a new floor is being installed at Caliente tonight. The rumor I have is that it should be finished by the time the 10pm DJ starts. We all know construction projects are always on schedule. 🙂 I wonder if they’re making a bigger floor or just replacing the surface. The last I checked, the surface was okay so I’m hoping for more space. Dance space with good music is at such a premium in Ottawa.
I’m already booked for tonight but if I wasn’t I’d pop by Caliente and check out their new floor around 10:30pm. If they’re still stuck in construction, the obvious thing to do would be to go to Maxwells on Elgin. Johnny Vegas will be playing there live and the dance floor is big enough for the crowd levels (usually).
Around these parts Salsa is mostly danced on “one”. In a nutshell that means that the leader steps forward on the count of one (with left foot). Actually, in most cities this is the convention. In New York, Puerto Rico and a few other places it is common to dance on “two”. One would imagine that means to break forward on two for the leader but it isn’t. Breaking forward on 2 is called Mambo, Power Two or Palladium (Salsa originated in the NY Palladium).
On2 actually means that the leader brakes BACK on two (with right foot). That’s actually how Salsa was originally danced in New York because of the strong ballroom influence (cha cha, rumba, bolero and such is danced on two for instance).
The experience of dancing on one or two is surprisingly different. This video is the best I’ve come across that explains it.
Want to learn Salsa on 1 and on 2? Check out SalsaMob to learn about Salsa in the Ottawa Community!
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.
To my surprise there was a live band. They were awesome. They eventually cut the tempo back for Salsa dancing and the floor filled up!
I did a few dances and got a little tired at women trying to grab my hand while doing a basic ladies right turn so I decided to go to Maxwells for more exercise. I tried different ladies and I figure it must have been “grab and cling to the guy’s hand night”.
Maxwells is hard to beat. It’s always fun. I got a couple of dances in and then home early to do a presentation on the next day!
Here are the left and right ladies’ travelling turns. The way I did it here was to do a right travelling turn and then a left travelling turn right after. This would permit more practice repetition for a beginner with less dizziness.
A common error is to not have each step on the same line. The traveling turns are used to exchange position with the man so you need to step in a straight line. Many beginners try to twist their legs around to get more turn but that just sends her off heading.
If it’s too much, just do a Dile Que No in between instead of doing them continuously.
I’m doing this with the “ladies count”.
This just shows the footwork. There are other important elements such as “preparation” that are difficult to see here. There is also spotting which is to do head motion in bursts rather than span the room as you turn. Arms are also used to help with the turn but conservatively.
This is the footwork needed for a lot of steps such as Coca Cola. I’ll find some better examples but here are a couple of traveling turns.
If you live in Ottawa and you want to learn salsa, you can get lessons all around town. I highly recommend Oscar de Leon. Check out this site: Ottawa Salsa Lessons