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    Basic Dance Steps & Timing - Salsa


    Salsa, Mambo, Cha Cha and Rumba have a common heritage and to some extent similiar step patterns. If your curious about the relationship between the dances have a look at my article on Emergence of the Clave Based Dances.

    The most universal basic steps for Salsa starts with a tap left on the first beat, a step forward on the same foot, a rock back onto the right foot and the sequence is finished by stepping back left to close. This is the forward basic movement, which is followed by the back basic movement. Tap right, step back right, rock forward left and close right. These steps are discussed more fully below. Generally, the woman always mirrors the man's steps, so while the man performs a forward basic movement, the woman performs a back basic movement and visa versa.

    Throughout the world there are variations on how the basic movements for Salsa are performed and there is also much controversy over which beat of the music you should "break" on (change direction forward, back or side). However, if you master the steps suggested below, you shouldn't have much difficulty converting to variations taught by some teachers (especially in the USA).


    You can view clips of the dance at Bustamove.
    You need Quicktime to view them! download


    Which beat you "break" on will effect your timing and the performance of moves you do. If you "break" on one, it simply means you emphasise the first beat of the music with a change in direction. This is a fairly natural reaction to the music because the first beat of a bar of music is the strongest beat you hear. The trouble is, this approach takes the emphasis way from the fancy moves which the girl usually completes on beat one.

    Salsa is a clave based dance which simply means your foot movements should emphasise the counts between the strong beats that occur on the one and three counts of the music. In short you should "break" on the second beat of each bar of music. Thats the accademic argument. Now you know it, forget it! The important thing is that you dance consistantly to the "feel" that both you and your partner find in the music!

    Salsa the dance is essentially a reinvention of the Mambo, which had as a parent the Rumba. Often in the music called Salsa there is a Bolaro/Rumba section, a Mambo section and a spicy part (Salsa). The footwork for Salsa, Mambo and Rumba is very similiar and results from the dancers' reaction to the tempo of the music. So if you dance a Rumba influenced style of Salsa, as I present in this article, you can dance to most Salsa music.

    In the USA there are several influences on the method taught by different teachers. For instance Angel Rodrigeuz teaches a Salsa with Jazz, Ballet and Hustle influences. Nelson Flores method has a Hustle influence and Jimmy Anton incorporates West Coast Swing turn patterns into what he teaches in the moves. While you are surfing the net, you will often come accross reference to the Eddie Torres method. His method appears to be a modified "Rumba" and is discussed in my article New York Mambo/Salsa.

    All of the above is simply accademic ramblings. However, you need to be aware that different teachers will teach different methods and there is a possibility that the people you meet outside of classes might have a slightly different way of dancing or might hear the music differently.

    Co-operate with your partner. Share your experiences and most importantly have fun!




    Dance Survial Guides...

    Timing - Salsa


    Salsa's parent dance is the Mambo. As the tempo of Mambo music became faster, itís dance steps had to be modified and so we have Salsa. To stop the dancer moving off the beat, the Mambo's one beat step on count 4 was replaced by a half beat step, with a placing of weight on the next half beat. Because the music is screaming for you to move on the next beat, an additional step, a tap followed by a half beat pause, was introduced on the next count to act as a brake, to stop the dancer moving. Salsa music seems to scream for you to start moving and keep moving, so many dancers start with the tap on the first beat of the music.

    Like most modern music, Salsa music is 4/4 time (4 beats to a bar of music, and therefore four dance steps to a bar of music. Salsa music screams for you to move on the first beat, but you are not allowed to, so you tap with your toe or kick with your heel, to stop you from going straight into the step that is meant to be performed on the next beat.

    Some teachers count the Salsa movement as quick-quick-quick-quick, others use the Mambo count of Quck-Quick-Slow but this can be confusing to the beginner. Its probably better to think of the movement as Rock, Rock, Close and Tap.

    In most Latino dances, you commence your steps on the 2nd beat of the music and change weight from one leg to another between the beats. In Salsa your feet only move on the 2nd and 4th beats, the change of weight which gives the dance its look and feel occurs half way through the 2nd beat, on the 3rd beat and half way through the 4th beat. On the first beat, you tap the foot to stop you from moving - think of it as a brake. Therefore, counting from the 2nd beat of the music, my preferred count is 2 & 3, 4 & 1 - check out the section on the basic movements and this will become meaningful.




    Dance Survial Guides...

    Basic Dance Steps - Salsa


    Throughout the world there are variations on how the basic movements are performed. In the USA there are several methods, most notably New York Hustle/West Coast based method, often referred to as New York Salsa/Mambo. Below we present the international method which is derived from Mambo.

    There are two basic movements to the Salsa - the Forward Basic Movement and the Back Basic Movement. Variously coupled or combined and often with small variations in body position, these two movements create the Salsa moves. A move is loosely defined as any sequence of eight steps. When you combine the two basic movements, they make up the eight steps of the first move, the Forward Basic.

    The Lady facing the man, will perform steps complimenting his. So if the man moves his left foot forward, the lady will move her right foot back and visa versa. This is very sensible. Otherwise, the man would probably tread on her!

    In the Forward Basic Move, the man will perform the Forward Basic Movement, followed by the Back Basic Movement. Whereas, the Lady will do the exact opposite. She will perform the Back Basic Movement, followed by the Forward Basic Movement.

    Another important move is the Back Basic. All the fancy moves originate from it! Basically it is the performance of the Back Basic Movement twice. On the first step, the man steps back onto his left foot mirroring the woman's movements. After completing the first movement, both the man and woman step back. The man needs to push away from the Lady to stop her from stepping forward.

    Some teachers (particularly in the USA) start with the man performing the back basic followed by the forward basic. However, it is easier for the man to lead, and more reassuring for the girl, if the man performs the forward basic first, pushing the girl back. Girls, have to be prepared to start on either. Simple rule, is if he is pushing forward, step back right. If he is pulling you forward, step forward left. If he does neither, you have a problem - ad lib.



    Back Basic Movement The Salsa Forward Basic Movement
    Stop. Tap your right foot, Don't change weight. Don't move your left foot.

    Right Rock Back, on the 2nd beat of the music. Slide your Right foot Back and change weight onto the Right leg. Don't move your Left foot!

    Left Rock Forward. Change weight onto the Left leg. Don't move your Right foot.

    Step Forward and Close. Toe first, slide your Right foot forward and change weight onto the Right leg. Don't move your Left foot!

    You are now ready to do the forward movement.
    Stop. Tap your left foot, Don't change weight. Don't move your right foot.

    Left Rock Forward, on the 2nd beat of the music. Toe first, slide your Left foot Forward and change weight onto the Left leg. Don't move your Right foot!

    Right Rock Back. Change weight onto the Right leg. Don't move your Left foot.

    Step Back and Close. Slide your Left foot Back and change weight onto the Left leg. Don't move your Right foot!


    You are now ready to do the back movement.







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