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Here are the most common problems my students encounter when they learn salsa.
"I find it hard to lead some moves with certain partners."
The leader of th dance (usually the man) should always control how far he/she is from the partner. If the partner is too far when the leader wants to lead the next move he will find it difficult. Some (followers) ladies? will tend to move too far away out of habit and this will cause problems. One solution to this is to keep your left hand (holding the ladies right) down low to prevent them moving too far away. Lastly, is there enough tension in the ladies arm. If the ladies arm is too soft, some moves cannot be led because the lady will move too late.
"I dance 'on the one' how can I be sure to step forward at the right time? "
Generally if you listen to Salsa music, there will be one beat in eight that is stronger than the rest. It is called "the one". Listen to any popular Salsa track and you should be able to hear it. It is often the beat where the singer resumes singing (though not always).
If you are struggling with this then start counting the beat 123, 567 before you reach the dance floor. Then you can start dancing right away. If you struggle to find the one, then you are not alone. However unless the music has a unusual tempo and/or the CD skips, you should be okay.
"People tell me that I stick my bum out when I dance."
You are probably dancing too far from your partner (or they are dancing too far from you). Salsa must be danced close during the lead phase or it will not work. I have been known to do this myself when I am struggling to reach my partner, or my partner is difficult to lead. However this is not really an excuse unless you have tried your best to get them close enough to you. Dance with an experienced partner and if you straighten up and dance correctly, it may not have been your fault. Watch your partners foot work. If they take big steps backward, then that is possibly the cause of the problem.
"I find double spins difficult."
Ladies, while being lead, keep plenty of tension in your arm and do not push your arm any further from your head than you have to. And finally and not least of all, keep a straight back at all times. Gentlemen, once again make sure you are close enough to your partner or she will struggle, and her back will bend. The lead for the spin should be a circle around and slightly above your partners head. This requires that you stand really close to your partner.
"I find that I have difficulty keeping up with the music "
Salsa can be fast, and there is nothing worse than dancing off time, so make sure you keep up. Sage advice, but how is this achieved?
The most common mistake is that dancers, both men and women take steps that are far too big. Remember, a big step back requires a big step forward and this takes time. When the music is fast however time is something you do not have. So take small steps. For ladies the situation is slightly more complicated. You must take steps that are large enough to adequately follow your partner, and nothing more. If in doubt try taking smaller steps.
"I am not sure if my heels should touch the floor when I step back"
Salsa is characterised more by what happens with the hips than anything else. Hip movement is the basis of its stylishness, and what you do with your feet profoundly effects how your hips work. Almost without exception, I would say that on the back step you should put your heel firmly on the floor. There are various reasons for this.
When you fail to bring your heel into contact with the floor on the back step you are not fully committing your weight to that leg. That strangles the natural wiggle of the hips that is fundamental to this dance. Place the heel firmly on the floor and your hips will wiggle more.
Try it. Listening to some slow salsa music, try stepping back and fully committing your weight to the back leg (heel down) while you observe your hip movement. Then try again without placing your heel fully to the floor. The first approach looks much more like Salsa. The second look somewhat lazy and without committment. See how many lazy dancers you can spot at the next salsa event!
Finally, if you wear high heels, then planting them firmly as I have suggested should be easy because the heel shortens the amount by which your heel needs to descend. If however you dance in flat shoes, you need to work harder, but the end result is often better.