I think the most common problem is that learners rush through the basics in their desire to advance to the next level, and it seems teachers encounter exactly the same problem everywhere in the world! Try to overcome this temptation! It is vital you start properly with a good understanding of the basic moves as these form the solid foundation upon which you build more complex moves with good technique and styling. And if you pick up bad habits at the beginning you'll find it very hard to lose them later on. By being honest with yourself and going to the right class for your level you'll find the learning process much smoother and less frustrating (less frustrating for your classmates too!) and you'll end up a much better dancer. If you feel you have mastered the steps in a sequence think more carefully about your technique and styling. Only once you are confident that you have mastered all aspects of each move should you consider moving onto the next level. If you are in any doubt, please come and speak to either César or myself.
Feel that rhythm!
If you have a background in another form of dance or music, finding the first beat and dancing in time will probably be easy for you...but for others, moving in time with the rhythm can be a real obstacle to overcome! Being able to hear the rhythm makes learning salsa so much easier as it is something less you have to think about. For those having trouble, try listening to salsa music and try to count out loud the beat. Do this at home, in the car, in the bath, wellâ€¦as much as possible! When you are dancing in class don't be afraid to count out loud either - it really does help.
Move those hips!
Fortunately, you don't need a double hip replacement to be able to sway your hips like the professionals, just a little time and effort invested in how you place your feet and transfer your weight. Every time you ground your foot, your weight should be transferred to that leg. For example, try standing up straight and then transferring your weight to your left leg. You should naturally feel your left hip swing out to the left as your leg straightens and your right knee will bend slightly. Now try shifting your weight to the right leg. The best way to practice weight transfer is to dance merengue. Merengue is a lively dance to two beats instead of four and DJs love to slip a merengue in amongst their salsa tracks! Next time you hear one, give it a go!
Leading and following
Salsa would not be salsa without definite gender roles (apologies to all the new-age independent women out there, but alas, it is true!). The best couples dance effortlessly together because each plays their role accordingly! It is the guy's responsibility to lead the girl with clear, decisive signals and to give her enough warning to execute the move in time. It is amazingly difficult for guys to learn their steps, timing, etc. and learn to lead simultaneously, so don't be too hard on yourselves and ladies BE PATIENT! Men if your partner is having difficulty following your lead, it might be time to make your lead a little stronger and more decisive. The girl, in turn, has to be receptive to the guy's lead and try not to fight him! Developing the right amount of tension in the arms and hands to be able to receive leads and then execute them takes practice. Probably the worst thing for a girl to do is to pre-empt the guy's lead - it will put you off balance and make the whole move look a complete disaster! It can also sometimes be dangerous as girls you'll find your arms being bent suddenly in a direction you won't expect!
Practice Practice PRACTICE!
Practice is really the only way to improve your salsa - but it is hardly a chore given the energetic atmosphere created by the music! The best way to practise is to form a small network of regular dance partners that frequent the same places you do. (Check out the list of places to dance salsa in Lux) Don't ever be too scared to ask someone who's better than you for a dance - if they are any sort of decent person they should be happy to dance with you.
Have FUN and DON'T GIVE UP!!
Never lose sight that salsa should be fun!! It is also important to recognise that everyone has good days and bad days. There are times when you feel you're improving a lot, then the next time you dance you wonder why you're going backwards after all the time and effort you've invested. It's also only natural to gauge your progress against everyone else around you and on these gloomy days, it's very easy to feel disheartened by your seeming lack of progress as opposed to other more advanced dancers. But don't despair!! Let these more experienced dancers INSPIRE you rather than intimidate you. Have faith in your ability - one day, you too will be a dancer others will look up to and admire. Don't forget even the most advanced dancers were once beginners! Good luck and have fun!