Very few students pick up dance naturally, especially in the beginning. It isn’t as easy as just watching and repeating. Here are seven key strategies for new dancers that will make learning to Salsa fun and easy.
1. Learn to Learn
If you are new to dance, it can take a little time to get the hang of it. You will need to do two things. Remember the steps and learn to perform them to music. Most beginning students don’t know how to put the two together, which can be intimidating. Don’t worry, as your instructor teaches you the basic steps they will also train you to learn.
Dancers learn movements and choreography by singing them as they dance. Your teachers will do this while showing steps to you. Listen to them as they sing and repeat the words in your head. This forms a connection between your mind and your body, so your mind can remember the pattern while your body learns how to follow along.
2. Salsa Basics
Beginning lessons start with the basic steps, then add easy movements. You will begin with a simple pattern, then add to it as you master it. This makes learning fast and easy.
For salsa, the rhythm is “quick quick slow; quick quick slow” and is counted as “one two three; five six seven.” The basic step follows this tempo with a forward and stepping back motion. The partners mirror each other’s movements and alternate stepping forward. This back-and-forth gives the dance that spicy feel.
To begin, the leader steps forward on the first “quick”, rocks back on the second “quick” then steps back on “slow”. The follower mirrors this by stepping back on the first “quick”, rocking forward on the second, then stepping forward on “slow”. Next, the follower steps forward (instead of backward) on the first “quick”, rocks back on the second “quick” then steps back on “slow”, while the leader mirrors them.
Don’t worry if it sounds complicated. It’s much simpler than it seems. All you need to remember is “forward and back; back and forward” (opposite for the follower) to a “quick quick slow; quick quick slow” or “one two three; five six seven” rhythm.
3. Build a Strong Foundation
We all want to whirl around the dance floor like the pros and you will after you get plenty of practice and some experience. But take your time to build a good foundation before moving on to more advanced steps. This reduces the chances that you will pick up bad habits. A solid foundation will also make learning more advanced movements easier. Once you can perform the basic step to music, try rotating as you go, or changing hand position between a normal closed hold and an open hold.
4. Add in Beginner Movements
When you have the basic step and the open and closed holds down, it’s time to add in a few more movements. These first movements are simple and easy to learn. You just insert them in as you perform the basic step then go back to basic afterward.
The first movement to try is the underarm turn. It starts with the first part of the basic “front and back”, then the lead dancer raises their left hand and the follower does a turn by stepping forward then turning to “forward turn turn”. Both partners then return to the basic step.
Another great beginners movement is the cross body lead. It also begins with the first half of the basic, but the leader opens up on the third step as the follower stays in position. The follower then steps through as the leader rocks back.
5. Watching and Visualizing
If you are having trouble matching the steps to the music, visualization can help. If you watch performers before an event, they are often rehearsing in this way. Basically, you picture the dance in your head while listening to the music.
To practice this, watch other dancers or your instructor perform the movement to music while singing the movement in your mind. Then imagine taking the steps. If this is a challenge, take mini steps as you picture the dance. This is especially handy because you can do it anywhere. It also helps reinforce the connection between mind and body.
6. Practice Mindfully and Correctly
Just like learning to play a musical instrument, you’ll need to practice a little until the basics become second nature. If you are practicing on your own, be sure to perform the movements slowly and correctly. This is important. You are training your body to perform a sequence of movements and you don’t want to teach yourself bad habits along the way. Once you can perform the movements correctly, speed up a little. If you begin to misstep, slow back down.
Set aside a small amount of time for practice and practice frequently. Repetition is the goal, so you don’t need large blocks of time, but you will need to practice at least every day. Lots of folks find a short session in the evening and again in the morning speeds learning along. Shorter sessions (about 15-20 minutes) are perfect.
The goal is to perform your dance steps correctly a few times. Remember, dance as slow as you need to while practicing and work on speed once you have the basic steps down. If you don’t have a practice partner, dance as though you do. Once you know your part, imagine them dancing with you. This will help you learn to lead or follow.
7. Observe, Listen and seek Feedback
As students advance, they are taught skills in observing, listening and applying feedback. If you are in a group class, don’t sit idle or chat with other classmates when others are dancing. Instead, watch the other students and listen to your instructor. Chances are the same instruction applies to you too.
As you progress, you will need to learn to give and receive feedback from your peers. But for now, seek feedback from your teacher and take peer advice with a grain of salt. Your peers will have plenty of advice they want to share. In beginning group classes, peer-to-peer advice is discouraged. Your friends have the right intent, but they can lead you astray, or worse yet, discourage you.
To get the most out of your beginning Salsa lessons, be sure to listen and follow your teacher’s instructions. They are not just teaching you the steps, they are also training you to learn dance. Once you have a solid foundation they’ll add in a few beginner movements. As you go, be sure to watch other dancers, practice mindfully, and seek feedback from your teacher. These skills are just as important as learning the steps. They will propel your learning, and in no time, you’ll be out dancing with confidence.
Company Name: Arthur Murray Dance Studios
Contact Person: Steve Platt
Address:3684 Sunnyside Dr
Country: United States