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Perfectly Illustrated Salsa Dance Steps and Moves Worth Learning

Learning Salsa Dance Steps
Learning the steps for salsa dancing is hard at first, although once mastered, it can prove to be quite a workout for you and your partner. Also, it will help you shed your inhibitions about dancing in public.
Uttara Manohar
Last Updated: Apr 18, 2018
With its sensual moves, stunning postures, and colorful costumes, salsa remains to be one of the most beautiful dance forms. Mastering the dance steps of salsa is a difficult and gradual process. Well to begin with, listen to some salsa music, feel the beats, and try to capture the essence of the rhythm. The first step to learn any form of dance is to feel the desire to dance and groove.
Basic Postures in Salsa Dancing
The salsa is performed in the closed position in which the man and the woman face each other. Traditional salsa dancing considers the man as the leader and the woman as the follower during the dance. While performing salsa, the man is supposed to give 'claves' to the woman. These claves are like subtle unperceivable tugs or pushes that help the woman realize when she is supposed to turn or dip. Throughout a performance, there are four points of contact between the man and the woman, which are a crucial part of the dance.
  • First and foremost, the man holds the lady's right hand with his left hand.
  • The man's right hand is correctly placed around the lady's waist, slightly around the back.
  • The woman's left hand is placed on to the man's shoulder.
  • The most important thing between the two partners is constant eye contact.
Basic Salsa Steps for Beginners
Well, there are a number of variations and styles in this sensual dance form, but as for the beginners, they can start with the most basic steps. Primarily, you will find two basic movements in the salsa dance - the Forward Basic and the Back Basic Movement. Talking in terms of dance jargon, these two basic movements make up the eight steps of the first salsa move. Now, since the man's dance steps have to complement that of the woman, here are some easy instructions for the men and women. Remember that you need to start with both feet together.
Basic Salsa Steps for a Male Partner:
  1. Tap your foot and hold the beat
  2. Take a step forward with your left foot
  3. Now, rock back onto your right foot
  4. Step back again with your left foot
  5. Now, hold the beat
  6. Step back with the right foot
  7. Rock forward with your left foot
  8. Step forward with your right foot and repeat the step
Basic Salsa Steps
Basic Salsa Steps for a Female Partner:
  1. Tap your foot and hold the beat
  2. Step back with your right foot
  3. Now rock forward onto your left foot
  4. With your right foot, step forward now
  5. Hold the beat again
  6. Step forward with your left foot
  7. Rock back onto your right foot
  8. Step back with your left foot and repeat the step
Basic Salsa Steps
In addition to the forward basic and the back basic step, there are other basic steps that beginners can pick up.
Common Dance Moves in Salsa
✔ Sideway Basic
Sideway basic is a simple variation of the basic salsa move wherein the break steps are sideways (that is to the right and the left) instead of backward and forward. This step is also called the 'drop side'.
✔ Side & Cross Step
Side and cross is just like the sideway basic step, but the right foot is crossed in front of the left foot instead of bringing the feet in a side-by-side position.
✔ Cuban Open Step
Cuban open is a variation of the back basic step, but the backward step is taken diagonally, opening to the left and right sides.
✔ Cucaracha
Cucaracha means 'cockroach' in Spanish and is the name for the second position break step. Cucaracha is a basic salsa figure consisting of side breaks to the left and right, which are instrumental in establishing the rhythm and timing.
✔ The Underarm Turn
The underarm turn or the outside turn is an arch turn. In this, the follower (the lady) turns in a clockwise direction.
✔ The Inside Turn
The inside turn is the exact opposite to the outside turn. The lady (the follower) turns counterclockwise from her left side.
✔ Spot Turn
In a spot turn, either one or both the partners take a 360° turn by remaining at the same spot.
✔ Extension
In an extension, the partners break in opposing directions that builds an arm tension between them.
✔ In-and-Out
In this, the leader (the man) creates an extension from a cross-hand hold and pulls the woman in with the right hand, while his left hand is placed over her head causing her to turn 180° to her left. The follower (the lady) is then pushed back out, and she breaks into another half left turn which brings her back to facing the lead.
✔ Cross Body Lead
The lady (follower) is led to the opposite side of the man (leader), causing them to swap positions in a counterclockwise manner.
✔ Reverse Cross Body Lead
It is similar to the cross body lead turn; however, the only difference is that the couple swaps positions in a clockwise direction.
✔ Basket
Basket is a type of extension wherein the man is positioned behind the lady and holds the lady's arms wrapped around her shoulders, while she breaks forward and the man breaks backward.
✔ Windmill
Windmill is a type of lead for a turn where rather than leading the turn from above the lady's head, the man loops the arm widely down and up so that the movement appears more vertical in appearance.
So, basically all the flawless performances, that seem to blow your mind and appear so beautiful, are intelligent pieces of choreography crafted with various combinations of these basic movements and coupled with other visually-aesthetic body postures.
Tips to Remember
  • The salsa is always performed on the balls of the feet; do not dance with flat feet.
  • Although salsa is supposed to be a sensual and sassy dance, do not overdo the hip movements. The hip movements will come naturally to you once you get into the rhythm of the dance. Exaggerated moves can actually ruin the effect of the performance.
  • Do not try to attempt the complicated moves at the beginning. Master your basics and then move on to the more difficult steps.
  • Although you will be concentrating on getting your moves and postures right, do not forget that salsa is all about enjoying the dance with your partner. Do not forget to maintain the eye contact and engage in playful flirtation, that will enhance the effect of your salsa.
The best way to learn salsa is to enroll yourself with a reputed dance studio and start your regular lessons. However, if you are too lazy or too busy to enroll and attend an actual dance class, you can log on to the net and access a number of paid as well as free websites that offer virtual salsa lessons. Most of these websites also offer demonstrative videos, which make the e-learning process relatively simpler. Salsa, as the name suggests, is a hot and spicy dance form. It is all about love, romance, and sensuality, and learning salsa with your spouse, fiancé/e, or your girlfriend/boyfriend can be a great idea. Also, couples who think they have lost the spark in their relationship can take up salsa classes to rejuvenate their lost love. Mastering this form of dance can take a long time but for the beginners, the key to learn salsa is shed your self of all the shyness and get ready to engage in the playful and vibrant dance form.
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