What Makes a Great Salsa Dancer?

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  • Author Esteban Oscar Conde
  • Published November 19, 2020
  • Word count 997

This is a great question I get asked often. And the answer changes based on who you ask. And also what your preferences are. However there are a few key elements that are common on some of the best salsa dancers in the world. So if you are looking to became a great salsa dancer, these are few things you should know.

All great dancers are advance level dancers.

If your goal is to because advance, even if you just started, you are on the right track! However most beginner/intermediate dancers focus too much on fast tracking their progress. The leads tend to focus on learning complicated and eye catchy dance patterns, while followers focus on adding arms styling every where on their dancing on the effort to look good socially. Focus on your fundamentals like timing, lead and follow and basic footwork and be spot on. Your timing must be consistent and precise. Your lead/follow technique must be second nature and clear. And your footwork, the way you mark the music on all your fundamental steps have to be defined.

Quality vs Quantity

It is not how much you do, but how good you are at what you do. Make sure you master every move, step in a way that you truly feel it and enjoy it. Don’t get stuck on moves or steps that might be eye catchy/sexy but don’t feel right for you. The little you do or know do it well. This will transfer into the whole lot you do and know. You will be done really good at it. It just takes time so be patient.

Work on your shines

Salsa Shines and solo footwork are a very important part of a salsa dancer. This helps you develop and feel the music and your body independently from your partner and away from lead/follow connection. It is extremely important because before you dance well with someone you first need to dance well with yourself, for yourself and from yourself.

Learn body movement

There are many ways to do body movement on salsa dancing and many different schools of thought. My take on this is that you should be moving and dancing while you lead and follow in a balanced way, all the time. This should be done in a way that doesn't interfere with your lead and follow skills. Create natural body movement of your torso and hips equal while you dance. All body movement starts from connecting and pressing into the ground. The way you move while dancing should be organic, within your flexibility abilities. Learn and own your basic body movement, take classes from your favorite instructors and learn what feels right for you!

Smooth Lead

A great Leads is someone who guides the lady, not one who makes her move around. You need to feel and adjust your dancing to every follow. Not two follow are alike! But you will notice that what is important among great salsa dancers is their ability to dance with anyone, no matter what level they are. Ask followers after each dance for feed back about your leading and be open to constructive criticism.

Light Follower

A light follower is someone who is deeply in tune with the leading. So much, that when the men leads her/him, it feels light weight. You can accomplish this in many ways. First ask for feed back, and be open for constructive criticism. Second, practice dancing and closing your eyes. You will be more in tune with what you feel vs what you see. Third, your resistance should be flexible, not super strong. This allows for your dancing and movement that breaths. Take lessons, and work in developing balance and speed in your feet and turns.

Be musical

Many dancers nowadays focus on the dance count of the music which is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. And they stick to it. But the music is so much diverse than that. Music syncopates, pauses, has accents and changes. If you pay attention, you can learn how to interpret it all. Start trying to create a hair comb, or a a shoulder roll, or body drop on some of those accents. You don’t need to accent everything, but start small. The best part is, those accents or musical interpretations happen within the count of the music, so you can always go back to the count without loosing it. That means dancing in the music vs dancing to the music. It takes practice, skills and time but you can definitely get there.

Develop your own style

All amazing dancers, and I am talking about the best of the best, are unique on their style. They share many similarities that make salsa what it is. Some of them focus more the music, some more on body movement, some more on patterns, and some more on shines. Some can do it all, and very well! No matter what they do, they do enjoy it so much that they excel at it. So no matter how you want to be as a dancers, it s more important that you feel right about. That you enjoy your style. So explore away, try different things, mix it all. Take many classes, create your own version of yourself. You will love it! Just remember that a great dancer on the stage doesn't necessarily make it a great dancer on the social floor, let alone a good instructor for social dancing

Stay Humble

This to me is the best attribute of an amazing dancer. That no matter what, she/he dances with everyone, no matter what level. Remember ego is a real thing. And most dancers when they get really good, they forget where they came from. Sadly, their talent sometimes gets to their head. Be a great human being and you will be great at anything you do. But first be humble and know that everyone was a beginner first. I hope these tips help!

For more info, come visit our Salsa and Bachata Dance Studio Classes in Orange County, California at EstebanConde.com

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