The Sneaky Trick that Every Salsa Beginner Needs to Know (Better salsa in just 60 seconds)

19 Jun
60 seconds will soon add up!

60 seconds will soon add up!

This article is an expansion of a point I made in one of my first articles on how to dance salsa.

One of the hardest things for any salsa beginner is asking someone out for a dance, especially someone you don’t know.

However, asking is just the beginning of your worries because when you ask someone out to dance you are pretty much making a contract. It’s a contract that contains two main clauses; (1) you are going to dance with the person and in doing so (2) you are going to entertain the person (through your skills on the dance-floor… one hopes). You need to dance with this person for the full length of the song (at least 3 or 4 minutes) keeping things interesting with all the different moves and patterns which you have apparently learned up until this point.

This means that if you don’t fulfill either of the aforementioned clauses you are in breach of contract. You have reneged on your promise. You have been a very naughty boy and you must be punished!

Thankfully, this punishment doesn’t come in the form of the your partner screaming at the top of her lungs for everyone to hear, how bad you suck at dancing (although she may tell her friends). Nor does it entail you having to wear a large luminous-yellow hat stating “Please Dance with Caution! Sucky and Boring!” for all the other dancers to see and ridicule (although I will admit this appeared in the majority of dance related nightmares I had when I first started dancing salsa).

No, the punishment comes in how you make yourself feel when you believe that you haven’t performed well. You make yourself feel stupid and useless, like the previous few weeks or months of salsa classes have come to naught, like you have no business out there on the dance floor with the other people who “supposedly” can dance.

In short it can be a Salsa Career Killer!

Every beginner feels this way at the start
I can guarantee you that this “fear” of not performing to expectation was one of the main reasons that I had so much trouble in asking people out to dance when I first started and this was one of the specific reasons that I was so slow to improve during my first year.

I was so nervous about what I was capable (or incapable) of doing, nervous that I was going to bore my partner that I would spend nights at salsa clubs dancing virtually exclusively with my girlfriend or one or two friends in order to avoid the risk of making a fool of myself with people I didn’t know.

One thing that made it worse for me was the fact that I learned salsa in Japan. That meant that if I went to a salsa club I stuck out big time (fair hair, pale skin and the beard). In general, the only other foreigners in the clubs at the time were the foreign instructors so that meant some people would assume that I was… you know… good! This only added to the pressure I  felt.

You learn the moves in class, you learn to dance on the floor!
That’s the paradox, you don’t want to dance because you think you suck but the only way you’ll actually improve is by dancing.

So what can you do. For me, the main issue was the length of salsa songs. I could relatively confidently lead the basic steps, a cross-body lead, a basic turn and a cross-body with turn. The problem was that if I had to constantly repeat those few moves over the course of a 4 minute song I started to freak out. Big time!

So, I came up with a little trick. A cheat that helped get me out dancing with other people and saved me having to worry about entertaining for the length of an entire song. It’s a trick that I am happily going to share with you as I know it will get your beginner salsa progress off to a flying start.

Here it is: all you need to do is wait for a song to start, wait a further 2-3 minutes and then invite someone out to dance for the last minute! That’s it. You’ll have about one minute of pure, unadulterated dance time. If you don’t know many moves, you won’t have to worry about boring someone for a full 4 minute (approx.) song and if you feel that you suck, all will be over in about 60 seconds. You’ll have gained valuable dance experience and (hopefully) your ego will still me intact

That’s it! If you’re a beginner, hopefully that will get you out dancing more regularly and with more people and that is all you need to start improving.

More Dances + More Partners = Better Salsa

Obviously this isn’t going to continue forever. You’ll quickly get better, learn more moves, gain more confidence and soon enough not even an 8 minute song will be enough for you and your mad salsa skills.

This one little trick was all I needed to get over my fear of boring someone on the floor. I may have only been dancing for a minute at a time but those minutes add up and they make all the difference.

Now get out there and wait for some songs to be nearly over 😉

Keep Dancing Folks!

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8 Responses to “The Sneaky Trick that Every Salsa Beginner Needs to Know (Better salsa in just 60 seconds)”

  1. Yoga With Delana (@YogaWithDelana) June 19, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    In response to “the contract” of asking someone to dance: I would rather dance with someone who just does the basic step the whole time but really feels the music and moves with sabor than I would with someone who has a lot of fancy, demanding moves and sequences, but doesn’t interact creatively with me or express the music well. Just sayin’.

    • The Dancing Irishman June 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

      Obviously, because the dance would be more fun, more entertaining. I never said loads of flashy moves were essential but for a beginner they have a much better chance of “entertaining” with a few moves than they do of actually being able to relax and play with the music. Being nervous really messes with that!

  2. David Garcia June 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    LOL, I really laughed at this one…. This is so my situation right now!! haha… so far, I only feel comfortable enough doing the three basic moves you mentioned and once you repeat each one a couple of times they get old pretty fast. I will definitely keep in mind waiting for at least half the song to be over. Great tip

    • The Dancing Irishman June 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Great to hear you can relate David. Keep up the practice and you’ll soon find that a 4 minute song isn’t enough for you!

  3. Stefan April 29, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    Hi. As an expert, do you know about places where the women, not the men, usually ask for dancing? In general, are there specific countries where this is more common?

    • The Dancing Irishman May 1, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

      Hi Stefan,
      I’m not an expert on anything and can only talk from experience. For example, in Ireland, I feel it’s quite common for women to ask men for a dance (but that may just be because I know a lot of people on the scene here). It’s not the case in Cali, Colombia where people usually tend to dance with people in there own group of friends. It’s not unheard of for a woman to ask an unknown man to dance but it’s not common.
      I feel that in the US too, women were more forward about asking men to dance whereas they were less so in Japan. That said, it can vary from city to city and even club to club.

  4. Conor Zorba Rafferty April 29, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

    Genius idea fella, I remember dying with shame and embarrassment when I ran out of “moves”, and had reapeated the meagre arsenal a few times.

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