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Getting Started With Salsa Dancing
by Yomi A

"Salsa" may just mean "sauce" in Spanish, but, on the dance floor, it means a fiery, spicy rhythmic ride that some newcomers may find too hot to handle. There are ways to cool off your anxiety and make sure that when you do join in this fusion of Cuban, Puerto Rican and African rhythms, you stay on the beat and keep the dance alive. Before you read the following basic tips and tricks, remember the advice of many salsa teachers - if you can walk, you can salsa!


When it comes to shoes, there are some definite do's and don't's. Men, leather soles are best and open shoes are going to get you in trouble - especially when your partner's heel comes crashing down on your big toe. Women, solid dance shoes will give you the support you need - just make sure they're broken in, or you'll end up blistered before the night is half over. With your clothing, natural fabrics are best, as they help your skin breathe. The key is not to wear anything that restricts your movement too greatly.

Your best bet is to take some classes at a local dance studio - especially if you're a guy. Sorry, but most of the salsa pressure is on you. Since this is a Latin-based dance, the man is generally expected to make the moves and lead the way. And since spontaneity is such a big part of the salsa experience, you'll need to create your own footwork within the salsa parameters. You are expected to keep constant tension in your arms as you guide your partner.

Ladies, your job is to learn how to be creative in the confines of following your guy. Track his movements, match his arm tension, don't wave around like you're about to go under for the third time. Bobbing or bouncing is not really the idea here - keep your back straight, your arms tight, and make your hips do all the work. And for both sexes, avoid ponytails - when you're that close and you're spinning, you don't want a lethal whack from a whirling hunk of hair!

The important thing to do is relax and have fun. Watch other, more experienced dancers as you're trying to make your first moves. After a few turns on the dance floor, it will become second nature and you'll be a salsa sensation.

Final tip - bring a little hand towel with you for your night out. Because if you're doing salsa right, you're going end up having to wipe off a lot of sweat!

Yomi is a salsa dancer and freelance writer for the Salsa Channel.
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