As I get more experienced, it’s becoming much easier to detect how good someone is based on their salsa basic. For those who are new to the dance, the Salsa basic is term used to describe your standard 6-step back-and-forth stepping pattern. By learning how to step as well as adding a bit of flair; you too can take your basic from beginner to salsero.
How To Step:
Stepping as a walker is simple, we do it all the time. Stepping as a dancer, is much trickier. What’s the difference? Stepping to walk, is usually a flat-footed affair. While it makes walking quite easy, it looks ‘clunky’ when you dance this way. What you want to learn is how to step like a dancer… or what I call, the ‘tiger step’.
What I mean by this is that you should aim to land the ball of your foot first, and then roll out to the rest of the foot to complete the step. I call this the ‘tiger step’ because it makes you look like you’re perfectly balanced and ready to pounce; much like a stealthy, wild Tiger.
When I first tried to learn the ‘Tiger Step’, I had a lot of trouble because I didn’t have the proper ankle/arch/calf strength. What I did to correct this (and still do to this day), is to do ‘calf raises whenever I can. Here’s a good video to get you started:
Stepping More Naturally:
Once you have the Tiger Step down, do your basic in front of a mirror. Do you see how you’re stepping? Usually you step forward and then return your foot to the center, parallel to your other foot. While this technique is good for learning, you really want to always keep your feet slightly not-parallel. When I mean is that when you return your foot on count 3, try to keep that slightly behind your other foot. What this does is help smooth out your basic movement. It also makes moving through more difficult moves later on.
A natural tendency for most new dancers is also to bounce while they step. While it’s very natural to bounce while you walk, it’s not a slick to bob while you’re dancing Salsa. I remember seeing an old movie where they teach young ladies to walk ‘with grace’ by balancing a book on their heads. While I didn’t try this, I always picture that a book is balancing while I dance.
TightRope Tiger Step:
Now that you have your steps staggered and that you’re stepping like a jungle cat, it’s time to add the tightrope. What I mean by this is that when you step, think that each step you take is on a tight rope. Picture the ball of your foot stepping forward, so that both your feet are on a slender tightrope. When you step back, bring your foot back slightly behind the other, still on the same tight rope.
This will give your basic a really sauve feel, making you look more balanced as well as feeling like a tiger.
Here’s a great video from Addicted2salsa about how to take your basic to the next level:
Here’s to Stepping like a tiger.
Stay Shining Salsero!
Only have a few moves and want to look a little more advanced? Why not try to work on your dance swagger. What’s swagger? Well, as the Urban Dictionary puts it:
“How one presents him or her self to the world. Swagger is shown from how the person handles a situation. It can also be shown in the person’s walk.”
In salsa, a person’s swagger is a mixture of how they move, their personality and how they make their partners feel. While this may sound silly to you, it’s something that resonates on the dance floor. You’ve seen those people out there…the sexy ones, the ones that always have their partners laughing, the romantic ones, the crazy dippers, the ‘getting-all-my-cardio-for-the-week’ ones, the dark and mysterious ones…
Now here’s the best part: you can have any dance floor swagger that you want.
While some people develope it naturally as they progress, you can learn how to fake it till you make it. The best way to start is to watch dancers who personify the type of personlity that you’d like to incorporate. Watch how they move, their style and think about what you can do to interpret it.
In Tango and Bachata, we talk about the dance term, ‘Intention’. By moving your frame and a certain level of condfidence your lead will be easier to interpret. I’m always saying in class that in order to develope intention, I dance as if I were Batman. He’s confident, strong and has a bold movement style. In reality, I’m Tony, a somewhat soft-spoken guy with a fondness for hats, but on the dance floor, I am a armour plated superhero who’s ready to save damsels in destress from bad dances! By being ‘Batman’, I feel less shy about doing sexy moves or pulling off a dip in true superhero-fashion.
You don’t have to be Batman, you can be James Bond, or Madonna, or Lady Gaga, or Jim Carey, or Don Juan… anyone you want and whenever you want. My buddy will be leading the more romantic bachata one-minute to having the funniest cha-cha the next.
I remember learning how to make my combs more ‘romantic’ by watching a few different ‘romantically swaggerific’ dancers do theirs. I even asked one of them for advice on how they interpret their combs. Then I went on to watch youtube videos of other dancers and have created a comb that I feel that matches my personality.
You may be thinking, ‘How do you make a comb look romantic?’. Being a swimmer, I started to pretend that I’m doing a comb underwater, so that I ease out my combing speed at the end. I also turn my hands like how gentlemen used to ask ladies to dance (from classic movies). Yes, it does sound super silly, but wow, the girls love it when I treat something as simple as a hair comb with such care.
Another great way to start thinking about adding some style to your dancing is by taking a styling class. TDS offers both STUDS and DIVAS classes that focus on adding styling, attitude and fun to your dancing. Over the years I’ve spent much time taking styling classes as well as emulating my favourite dancers to create a dance swag that’s truly my own.
So get out there, watch those dancers that you admire and figure out what it is about them that you’d like to help shape your swag. Usually it’s the little things, watch how they lead turns, how they step during a cross-body and even how they spin.
Just a word of advice, try to not let your swagger get in the way of you enjoying your dancing! It’s just a tool in your arsenal to help you have a little more expression. Also beware of the dark side, as people usually don’t like people who have creepy, arrogant or mean styles of swagger.
Stay Shining Salseros!
With each calendar year switch, I look back to the previous years’ dance resolutions and see how my dance path stayed on course or veered off path. I’m always amazed to see how much life can change in a year, and this past one was no exception. From competing to assisting to even being ‘salsa claus’; here’s how I measured up to last year…
1-Nail down the forward/reverse coca cola as well as the 360 degree cola.
HOW I DID:
While I smoothed out my colas, I’ve digressed from conquering the 360 cola. While I’ve done it a handful of times, I decided to perfect the lead of the regular ones before tackling the 360. Hopefully this time next year, I’ll have perfected this one and will be working on the 720!
2-Continue my weight loss through muchos dancing
HOW I DID:
Here’s one I can check off (although a few weeks at my parents haven’t helped). I have to admit that most of the loss was due to fitness apps and portion control; I really have to get out dancing more to help burn off the calories! I will definitely get out dancing more often this year as I really miss the social scene.
3-Check out a few Milongas to practice my Tango steps
I really wish I had kept up with my Tango, but alas I did not. Perhaps I get a few bonus points for incorporating some Tango into the comp routine?
4-Work on my afro-cuban movements
I can check this one off. From working with the student team to Olivier and Emely’s great advice, I look less awkward while doing Afro movement.
5-Work on on2 dancing
I had hoped to do this, but decided to work on my On1 Performance. Perhaps 2012 will be the year that I switch?
6-Continue working on my own style, from personalized dance moves to body movement
I can check this one off as I spent much of my time (assisting up at the front of class) working on body movement. I feel like I’ve reached a point where the movements look much more fluid and dancer-like.
7-Work on more dance expression and feeling the music
This has been a really touchy point for me. While there were certain points of the year where I felt like I had made a lot of gains, there were definitely many other times where I have lost my dance expression. I have a feeling that this year I will focus on fitness, dance expression and lift technique.
8-Learning Cumbia/Cuban style Salsa
I really can’t check this one off. While I’ve got a good grasp of Cuban style Bachata, my Salsa Cubana is pretty weak.
9-Attend a salsa congress outside of Toronto
I can’t check this one off either. Perhaps I’ll go to Vancouver (which I hear is amazing) or San Francisco (as my parents live there). Maybe the trick is to go closer, like the Niagara Falls or Gateneau ones? Road Trip anyone?
10-Get around to watching a ton of those salsa lessons online
It’s funny as I was just thinking these past few days to get around to watching the online videos and sadly; I have yet to do so. I feel like I have to make this a weekly routine as I’ve sunk into doing pretty standard moves without much variation.
As you can see, I can’t check off many dance resolutions for 2011. The funny thing though is that I’m not disappointed with 2011 as I learned so much! From body movements, experiencing a competition to taking a few classes outside of Toronto; I’ve grown as a dancer in many ways.
It’s easy to get a little down from not accomplishing everything (or anything) that you originally wanted to. I feel that the beauty of dance and life is the journey of it all. True I may have not learned on2, but I definitely improved my on1, body movements and so much more. I’m completely off-track from my previous resolutions, but happily resolved in how off-track I am!
Stay Shining Salseros!
If you’re a little newer to dancing Salsa, you may have heard people talking (or tweeting) about the upcoming Salsa Congress. While it may sound like we’re all getting together to go voting, a Salsa Congress is a massive, Thanksgiving weekend affair featuring dance workshops, performances and swag from some of the best dancers/ musicians worldwide!
While you may think that you’re too new to dancing to experience this amazing, once-a-year event; think again as there are a ton of experiences for you! So to make it easy for you, I’ve decided to list a few events for you to go check out (if you see me, say hello or ask for a dance!)
Thursday Oct 6th: The Annual Canadian Salsa Dance Championships
If you love to see amazing dancers compete (ala SYTYCD or Dancing with the Stars) you gotta check out this show! You’ll see the best of the best Canadian dancers burn the floor in some of the most compelling dancing you’ve ever seen. Trust me, it’s really fun. Oh, and there’s dancing after!
Friday Oct 7th
Check out Friday night for a great night of performances and great social dancing that goes really, really late!
Sat Oct 8th Beginner Bootcamp, Workshops, Performances and Dancing!
Feel like you need a few more lessons before going dancing? Take the extremely popular Beginner Bootcamp! From 10:30am – 5pm you can go from not knowing how to dance to impressing that cute salsera from your level 1 class!
Know a little bit of salsa and want to expand your knowledge? There are a ton of great workshops for the beginner/intermediate from Rhythm and Body Movement, The Anti-Styling, Styling Workshop and even beginner Bachata, Zouk and Latin Hustle classes.
Now if you don’t want to hit up any workshops, you HAVE TO, HAVE TO go to the Saturday night performances. Why? You are guaranteed to see some of the best dancing that you’ve ever seen. I’ve been each year since I’ve started and this is the night of all nights to go! Afterwards, stick around for some serious dancing to Ray de la Paz from New York City with guests Luisito Orbegoso & Moda Eterna! An amazing band that you just have to check out live.
Sunday Oct 9th
Sunday features more great workshops and then more performances, from seeing many local student teams, more competition and then dancing till dawn!
Trust me, if you can slip away from Thanksgiving celebrations, you’ll want to spend your weekend checking out the Congress! It’s an amazing experience and a great way to amp up your dancing (and maybe even get a new pair of shoes!)
For more information, check out the official site: http://www.canadasalsacongress.com
Stay Shining Salseros!
It’s around this time of year where I find a lot of newer salseros asking me for advice on adding moves to their salsa arsenal. Now I could go on and on but I’m going to try to keep things a little simple…
The Web has a Million Move Tutorials
Search youtube and google videos and you’ll find a million videos! Some are great, others… well… Here are a few of my favourite websites for moves, check them out as they may have just what you’re looking for!
Sick of giving your girls right turns? Try leading some of them with your left hand. Do you turn yourself much? I didn’t think so… most guys don’t. Try throwing in your own turns to catch her attention! How about giving cross body leads only using one hand? There are a million variations of all the level 1 and 2 moves, you just have to try thinking outside the box.
Another option is to take the moves you know, and add a little ‘musicality’ to them. Lead a simple ladies’ right turn, but take twice as long to lead it. Take the whole 8 counts to turn yourself and do some fun body movements while you turn. Try leading a cross body where you don’t actually cross the lady until the next coming 5-6-7. Try leading a reverse turn, but throw in a cool body movement you learned in that hip hop class. The beauty of dancing is expressing yourself, take advantage of it and people will notice!
Watch Creative Dancers
Want to learn new moves? Go to the social and spend some time watching all of the dancers that have all the right moves. While you may not be ready for some of those crazy combos yet, there will always be something quick and easy that you can put into your own set of moves. You’ll see that most of the crazy dancers always have great moves that are really easy to pull off!
Save Your Best For Last
One of the most common mistakes leaders make is to just start dancing a song really strong… they’ll pull off all of their really cool moves right at the beginning and a few minutes later; they have nothing left. If you really want to show the ladies how you are a great and creative leader, start small. Do basics, turns and cross body leads and slowly reveal your better moves as you go along!
From getting inspired online, to watching other dancers and switching up how you lead your current moves; you’ll be the next well-stocked Batman on the dancefloor!
Stay Shining Salseros!
I know what you’re thinking, but no, not that kind of threesome… but it does involve two girls for every boy While the spaces are filling up fast, we do have a few spots left for ladies on our upcoming Salsa Threesome Performance Team! Wait!?! Before you get scared away, it really is going to be an awesome experience and if you want to take your dancing to the next level; you’re going to love being on the performance team!
I remember how I felt about my first time, but seriously, once you try it, you’ll love it and never want to go back! Performing can seem so scary, but there are so many pros that you should really just sign up…
Performing will make you a better dancer
I will guarantee that being on a team will help so many aspects to your dancing. Unlock your inner salsa diva by working on your styling, body movement and having some sexy salsa spicy attitude. I remember my first performance team partner, who could barely do a coca-cola when we began, went on to win the TDS competition only a few months later.
Performing is really, really fun
While being in front of a crowd dancing can seem really, really scary… it’s actually not that bad when you have a solid team dancing with you. Not only that, your dance partners are just awesome as they’re going through the same thing that you are. I can only say great things about my two performance teams as both groups just made it all super fun.
Nothing beats having a salsa wing-girl
Quick, name three other girls from your salsa classes… what? you can’t? Oh yeah, it’s because ladies usually don’t meet the other girls from their classes. What’s so great about dancing with another girl is that a) you will make a really awesome new salsa lady-friend as well as b) become a way better follower because you need to dance with your lead and sync up with another girl!
One of the most common comments I hear from lady-helpers is that they really enjoy getting to know the other girls. Not only will you be a sassy lady social butterfly, but you’ll have the best lady entourage group in all of Acrobat!
Hair Done, Nails Done, Everything Big!
Another great aspect to performing is justifying getting all dolled up to perform! You can totally justify getting that new dress, getting your hair did and put on some body glitter guilt-free! Trust me, the Salsa guys will be lining up to dance with you once they see you all done up.
Threesomes are just awesome
No, seriously… it’s going to be pure shenanigans and a performance that people will be talking about for a long time! From taking your dancing to the next level, to bonding with great people and getting all dressed up; the salsa performance team is just for you! There are only a handful of spots for the ladies left, so take a deep breathe, you know you can do it… and you won’t feel guilty for doing it!!!
Stay Shining Salseras!
While working on my multiple-turn lead, I’ve noticed that I’ve picked up a nasty habitby putting my lead hand way too high when turning my partner. A weird lead no doubt, but one that is very common. While I can really focus on keeping that lead hand closer to proper halo height, I feel that the real culprit is that most followers aren’t using ‘Barbie’ technique.
You’re probably thinking, wait, that Barbie? Yes, I do mean the one and only Plastic Princess of Pink. Now, before you pronounce me crazy, I want you to think about how Barbie’s arms are slightly bent. When her arms are down, they are in the perfect position for being lead with perfect tension. When you move her arms upward, they are in the perfect position for being guided through her turns. If you start to dance thinking ‘must dance like Barbie’, you’ll be benefitting everyone.
First, let’s look at the proper form… when you get ready for a turn, try to always keep your arm bent somewhere close 90 degrees and keep your elbow parallel to shoulder (it should be in front of your face, closer to your forehead). If you keep your arm in that position, it’ll help you keep your balance.
Next, you should try to turn ‘as a unit’. Imagine that you’re a more flexible Barbie. What I mean by this is that when you’re being turned, that your torso and your arms will be pretty solid and both turn at the same time. When your arm moves before your torso, you’re dancing with what we call ‘spaghetti arms’ because the turning connection becomes very weak/limp. It makes it almost impossible to turn and you really lose the one thing that Salsa is all about, manipulating momentum.
By keeping your arm slightly bent and moving as a unit, the guys’ lead will be better as his hand will be at proper halo level. You’ll be teaching your leads to guide more effectively and everyone will benefit. Take a look around and see how many people are leading turns improperly… you’ll see tons of people in the correct position at the beginning of the turn and suddenly they’re raising their arms straight up in the air mid-turn!
So ladies, be like Barbie and gents be sure to summon their ‘inner Ken’ in order to keep your partner looking great with proper technique!
Stay Shining Salseros!
I always feel so good when I finish a level and while 9 weeks can just fly by, you learn so much that it would be a crime to lose that knowledge over the weeks from one level to the next. Here are a few practice tips that I use so that when I show up to the first class of my next level that I haven’t completely rusty.
Ladies Right Turn:1-2-3: Prep the Right Turn using a J-stroke (left arm makes a J type movement and ends up in a high-five position), do normal salsa basic steps.4-5-6: Apply a little pressure and give the girl a right turn by drawing a little halo over her head, complete the basic by stepping back on 5.