Tips of the Beginning Salsero
Congratulations, mi hombres, you’re about to embark on a journey of tremendous self discovery if you’ve decided to learn Salsa. I’m not long into the process myself; I’ve only been at it a little over a year. Since I haven’t been at it long, it’s easy for me to look back on where I started, and pass on some things that will help you in your development. I wish someone had told me these things.
Buy Some Shoes
I know, that since this is Boulder, that you're very proud of your GPS enabled, multiple USB port, Vibram soled hiking boots. They're nice, but they're not optimal for dancing. You need shoes you can glide in, not shoes that grab the floor and hold you in one spot. Remember, you need to be able to move your feet easily: you need something with smooth bottoms. My first pair of dancing shoes were some old Oxfords I bought in a thrift store for $3.00. I later bought some actual, made for dancing shoes with suede bottoms, on Ebay. Dancing in the right shoes makes a huge difference. If you see guys hopping up and down like they're clog dancing, check out their footwear. And those guys you see who dance in their bare feet? They could walk across Boulder on hot coals. Save that for when you learn to dance.
Be a Slave to the Rhythm
Sometimes I watch the new dancers and bemusedly wonder what music they're listening to as they blithely cavort in a manner that would seem to presage some sort of major medical event. I always think, “What are they listening to?” To be a Salsero, to be a leader, you need to be able to keep the beat: it is a primary responsibility. One of my Salsa senseis, Allison, said that leaders are responsible for Timing, Energy and Direction. If you don't get the rhythm, you can't get the timing. To get the rhythm, you need to listen.
Listen to the Music
As much as learning steps is a part of the process, you need to listen to Salsa to be able dance to it. You don't need to know Spanish. You need to make Salsa cds to listen to in your car, or put music on your Ipod, your smart phone, listen while you're working on your computer, while you're working out. Listen to the Tropicales channel on Comcast. You can make great playlists on Spotify.com, Playlist.com or Rhapsody.com, or you can let Pandora.com select the songs for you. You will hopefully find songs and artists you like listening to, and develop your own Salsa library. If you don't know where to start, ask somebody, everyone has their favorites.
Master the Basic Steps
It's pretty common to see new Salseros doing one of these variations of the basic step: the Bob, where it looks like they've volunteered to be the subject in a Whack a Mole game, or the Lunge, where they look like they're fencing. Whatever basic step you're doing, you don't bob, and you don't lunge. Keep level with and take small steps. You'll understand the importance later.
Salsa is simpler than it looks, but like anything else you'll get better if you practice a lot. You'll discover that besides learning the steps, it's all about muscle memory and repetition. So dance as much as you can: there’s someplace in the Metro area you can dance seven nights a week. Take as many lessons as you can. Go to seminars. If you can't do those things, just practice at home. Dance with lots of partners when you can, you'll learn faster. Watch good dancers, in fact, watch all dancers. You'll learn what’s good and what's not.
Be a Gentleman
Follow basic hygiene rules. Ask ladies to dance nicely; don't just get up in their faces. Appreciate your partner, pay attention. And most of all, watch your behavior. Salsa is a very sensual dance, but remember that a dance is also a social contract. Do not take liberties. Watch your hands; be aware of your crotch. I've had women friends tell me that they love to dance, but dealing with ill-behaved men has diminished their enjoyment. Don't be that guy. Your goal is to be the Salsero women want to dance with, not the one they want to avoid.
Don’t Give Up
You’ll get better; it just takes time and dedication. If you stay humble and open, you’ll learn something every time you dance.