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Salsa Technique

Body Action

  • For Salsa, step with bent knee to give earthier look. Do not step on straight knee.
  • Backward steps: don't put full weight to back foot.
  • Footwork: ball flat. No heel leads. Lead with ball of foot, then put whole foot down.
  • Latin hip motion - Lady normally does more than the Man.
  • As In other Latin dances, feet don't leave the floor, always inside ball of foot lead.
  • Use rib cage opposition and back muscle. Do not allow shoulder to pick up. Shoulder stays down and parallel to floor.
  • For most of the time, body is in a 50-50 split weight position between feet.
  • Small steps, stand up straight. Lead using the movement of body.

Arms and Hands Styling

To make styling believable, put a reason behind the action, it will help to make the action look more natural and believable.
  • To put hand out to side, think about, for example, hitting a beat, or pushing up water.
  • Raise both arms up above head: think about pushing water away. When arms come down, let water fall over the body.
  • Light, soft movement vs. heavy movement.
  • Cross Body Lead: Lady can feel off balance first, then going out of it. 
Arms and Hands:
  • Lady: "flip" the hand up, wrist is down. Create soft curve in fingers. Develop the fingers.
  • What the body/ribcage does is what creates the arms movement. Arms do not just go by themselves. Do not overdo the arms. Keep arms tamed, so people can see more body motions.
  • When turning, shoulder down, free arm is in front of chest, palm out to give it more Latin look (or palm in for ballet look).
  • Arm positions (for Latin dances): (related to ballet positions, but not exactly the same)
    • 1st: arms in front either low, or in front at chest level (palm out)
    • 2nd: arms to sides (looking from side ways, arms are held in front of body, not back), palms down. 
    • 3rd: one arm up by side of head (turn wrist out), one arm to side, palm down.
    • 4th: one arm up by side of head (flip wrist, palm up), one arm in front (palm out)
    • 5th: used a lot for turning, both arms up, flip both wrists and turn out, cross wrists, arms are in advance of the ears (looking side ways). Fingers need to have energy in them to give full complete look.

Turns and Spins

Basic Practice

  • Find balance on one foot:
    • Practice standing on one foot and on ball of foot. Hold and keep strong balance. This creates inner focus to maintain the posture and balance.
  • Spotting:
    • Nose is the last to leave and first to arrive.
    • Do not tilt. Keep spine straight.
    • Make turns faster, reduce dizziness and give turns look nicer.
  • Placement of feet
  • Softening of the knees
  • Use of arms
  • Torquing the body

Basic Right and Left Turns

  • Basic Right Turn:
    • QQS: Lady RF back rock QQ, On S, RF prep to step rightward, small turn out.
    • Q: LF across RF in diagonal direction (1/8 across), put ball of LF down to push. Do not over cross. Do not transfer all weight to LF, which makes spine moves. Push LF, spin on soft, slightly bent R knee. 1/2 turn.
    • Q: Turn on RF to face partner.
    • S: step on LF.
  • Basic Left Turn:
    • QQS: Lady RF rock back QQS
    • Q: LF step leftward prepping for turn.
    • Q: RF cross in front LF with ball of RF
    • S: Spin on LF.
  • Stopping the turn:
    • Dropping the heel of the turning foot
    • Use trailing foot to step and dig to floor.

Side Rock Axle Turns

This is used more by Man. Lady can use this in shine as well.
  • Q: RF to right side, arms to right.
  • Q: Transfer weight to LF and spin on LF one full turn. Use Spotting.
  • S: RF step in place next to LF. Drop down hell of LF to stop turn.
  • Repeat to the other direction.

Hook Turns

This is often used by leaders. Lady may use this in shine.

RF Hook Turn Option 1: - Do the turn on 567
  • QQS: Start with basic, LF fwd, RF replace, LF back
  • Q: RF hook behind LF (Cuban Cross), then turn 1/2 turn to right
  • Q: LF step in place (to the side after the 1/2 turn), then, turn another 1/2 turn to right
  • S: after turning at end of previous beat, step RF almost in place, ending with LF crossing behind RF. Then, continue with basic LF fwd.
RF Hook Turn Option 2: - Spin on LF
  • QQS: Start with basic, LF fwd, RF replace, LF back
  • Q: RF hook behind LF (Cuban Cross), without putting weight on RF
  • Q: Spin on LF full turn to the right.
  • S: Step RF fwd after the spin.
LF Hook Turn: Do the turn on 123
  • Q: LF hook behind RF, turn 1/2 to left
  • Q: RF to side, then 1/2 to left
  • S: LF step in place after the 1/2 turn.
  • QQS: RF rock back, LF replace, RF fwd.

Pivot Turns

This is normally done by the Lady. Traveling while turning. (Example, turning left during cross body lead.)
  • Use pivot action in the feet. Maintain scissors position for the legs and keep it that way while turning.
  • When turning, one foot is in front and one is in the back. Do not use side steps during turning.
  • Do not pump arms when turning. Keep arms in front of body/chest. Allow one side/shoulder to "close in" to the other side constantly.

Multiple Turns

Salsa on 1 (LA Style): Double Turn is not very easy. Triple is going to be hard, you'll need to start turn earlier.
Double Turn is easier for Salsa on 2 (New York Style) (because where S is in the dance.)

On 1 style double turn:
  • 123: Lady RF back rock QQ, On S, RF prep to step rightward.
  • 5: LF across RF in diagonal direction, put ball of LF down to push. Do not over across. Do not transfer all weight to LF, which makes spine moves. Spin on soft, slightly bent R knee. 1/2 turn.
  • 6: One full spin on RF on count 6.
  • 7: Step on LF.
On 1 style triple turn: start turn on count 3, (one full turn), then continue with double turn for 567.

On 2 style double turn:
  • Leader indicates double turn on 7. Lady will prep and wind up to left.
Continuous Traveling Turns:
  • Keep legs together. It's ok to "paddle foot" if needed.
  • Do not pump arms. Maintain closed position. One side closes in to the other side.
  • Spot on partner. Keep knees soft.
  • Maintain arm position. The arm connected with man is in front of body, vertical. The other arm held in front of chest.
Stationary Spins:
  • Mostly spins on one foot. Keep the other foot next to spinning foot or keep in in ballet "Coupe" position.

Head Accent

  • Use head spotting when turning.
  • Head roll: (e.g. when finishing cross body lead with inside turn)
    • Last "7" half turn: allow right ear to drop to shoulder, chin touches chest, then head straight up. End nice and tall.
    • Head does not go all the way in a circle. Only use a small part. It's illusion that head goes all around.
  • Head roll when turning under Man's arm, turning left:
    • Tuck chin to chest, turn left, and head come up straight.
    • It's not a full roll of head
  • In all head rolls, do not bend from spine or involve other parts. Only involve head.
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