Beginners Corner

If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again.

Everybody was once a Beginner!

No matter what you see or how you feel about your own skills - EVERYONE was once a beginner!

I still to this day remember clear as day when I first started dancing salsa, nothing made sense! I couldn't for the sake of me hear the 1, 2, 3...! "-Don't you hear the one(1)?", my instructor used to say... "-What one(1)??!!"... She was referring to count 1 in the music so I know when to start stepping. I felt like I didn't have a musical bone in me! I was totally out of my comfort zone! Since I am a Latino, I was expected to pick this up instantly and be fantastic!

However, I learnt very quickly that learning to dance salsa technically correct or any other dancing for that matter is not something you are born with no matter what background you have or where you were born. It is all about learning and repetition. Yes, it is true that some will pick up faster. However, the one who studies eventually excels!

This is exactly what I did, "study" and repeat over and over again! I used to think, how come everybody else is learning so fast? Am I the only one not getting it? Luckily, I realized I wasn't the only one. However, with time... slowly but surely, things started to make sense and fall in place. I even remember the night when suddenly my dancing felt very different - I started to "get it"!

Sometimes you see 'hot shots' on the dance floor dancing amazing, well... they should to be dancing that well, since they spend most of their time practicing/dancing - while others are at work earning a living! Keep in mind that these dancers probably earn a living from dancing. So don't compare yourself to them.

You will learn at your own pace no matter what, just like I did. The more you worry about it the slower you will find you progress, trust me! Try to just relax and allow yourself to not know anything for a while; it won't be too long before that fact changes rapidly. Enjoy the process of learning and don't beat yourself up - be kind to yourself and you'll be pleasantly surprised! Keep your dancing simple and basic initially to build up your confidence. Then at a later stage once you can do all your basic moves (and backwards) in various different orders, you can start playing and experimenting with new more challenging moves and styling as you progress! The single most important advice for all dancers, is to smile and have fun when you dance!

You are allowed to make mistakes, this is how you will learn. Ask questions about everything, this is how you will understand why it is done in one way and not the other.

Measure your success only by comparison to yourself and appreciate how far you've come - everyone else around you is far too worried that you will laugh at them to risk a sideways glance, so.... just relax.

Keep in mind that social salsa dancing is for fun and making friends. If you don't get it as quickly as you anticipated, nothing tragic will happen, the class will still be there next week! It's only a matter of time - so take your time and go step-by-step!

Ask for help if you're struggling with anything; don't be afraid to ask, no matter how silly you think it is. As teachers, we love getting questions from beginners because we know that it will "light up" a bulb and things will eventually fall in place. Everything will make sense, slowly, but surely! Remember, there is a good chance you are not the only person wondering about something, and the answer to your question will probably be helpful to several people in your class! Others will probably thank you for asking a question. If you believe you are seriously falling behind in class, then perhaps consider a private lesson.


Below we have selected a few songs that are appropriate for beginners who are starting out with Salsa dancing. The song have a good tempo, strong beat and clear instruments which makes it easy to pick up the timing.


Appropriate music for beginners practice

Getting more out of class

How Can I Get More Out Of My Group Salsa Classes?

1) Have an open mind.

Many times we walk into a class feeling we already have most of what is being taught, but that we just

need one thing ( a new step, syncopation, body move, timing etc). When this happens we tend to only

hear what we want to hear, not necessarily what is being taught. Many teachers use patterns as a

means to teach a skill, that skill would be the primary thing to learn in that class, not the pattern.

2) Be in the right level.

Having been a competitor, a teacher and a student for nearly 20 years, I can still say that I can still

learn from another teachers beginning class. For example, just because you know the skill that is being

taught doesn't mean that you know everything about that skill or that you can't improve the way you

use it or that you can't learn another way of doing it for different dancing circumstances. Also, different

schools have different numbering systems. (School A's level 4 may be equal to School B's level 2) When

in doubt take the more basic class. The key here is: Upper level classes for quantity, beginning classes

for quality.

3) Be on time.

If you are in class from the beginning you'll obviously have a better understanding than if you come in

the middle of an explanation. Besides it's not fair to the teacher or the rest of the class to have to keep

repeating things for the latecomers.

4) During the class practice time, practice the pattern that is being taught.

During class practice time, the teacher is watching. We want to see if most of the people are getting

what we are teaching, if we need to teach another facet of the material, or if the majority is ready to

build on what we have done so far. While you may feel & quot;oh, I've got it" in watching you the teacher may

see that you missed a certain point (see #1).

5) Encourage your partners.

On occasion we have a newer dancer tell us that one of the intermediates gets frustrated with the

beginners. While you are working on your dancing, be aware of what emotion that you may be

projecting, beginning dancers tend to take it more personal. If you are frustrated with yourself, they

may think it is them that you are frustrated with. Let's face it, having lots of partners to dance with can

be a lot of fun, especially come party-time. The more comfortable people are, the more often they will

come. Everybody has fun. The key here: Remember your roots.

6) Come as often as possible.

Group teachers in schools (as opposed to nightclubs) usually progress each class in a series. In a school

we can assume that you'll come regularly, so we can teach things knowing we have next week and the

week after to build, improve and flesh out what we're starting this week. This ties into #7.

7) Take privates.
The group classes are a great place to learn patterns, but if you want to really understand and polish your dancing, privates are an

important part of your class schedule. To be honest, some things really cannot be taught in group classes, so some "secrets" can only

be fully taught in private lessons because we can get you to "feel" it. This ties to #8.

8) Get as much practice as possible.

Get to know your classmates (see #5). They are built in practice partners. Come early to class, stay

after class, come to parties, go to clubs....practice as often as possible. The formula I was one told by a

coach: there should be 5 hours of practice between each class. While you may not be able to do that

much, obviously the more better.

9) Have proper tools.

Shoes. You don't have to have dance shoes, but let's put it this way: at least with dance shoes you are eliminating one potential

roadblock to your learning. Properly taken care of, a good pair of shoes will last a long time. It's like putting good tires on your car. If

you are investing in your dancing, invest in shoes. If you choose not to have dance shoes at least get shoes with thin flexible soles

and ladies pick shoes that stay on your feet without flapping around. Clothing should be cool and comfortable. Please avoid tennis

shoes and character or tap shoes.

10) Have fun.

Remember that this is a social activity (see #5 and #8). Remember WHY you walked into your first

class. For most people it was to be able to either go out and have fun or the class itself would be fun or

both. Also the process of learning guarantees mistakes will happen, if you can laugh about it you really

will learn faster than the person stressing over the mistake. Enjoy the learning process.