- 1. What we will cover?
- 2. Salsa dance to increase cognitive functions
- 2.1. Causes of failure
- 2.2. Understand the multifaceted requirement
- 3. Where did Salsa dance come from?
- 4. Salsa dance as a network tool
- 5. Salsa dance as well-being tool
- 6. Salsa dance to lose weight
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Did you know that 90 to 95% of salsa dance does not involve a single salsa step? Your read right. Therefore, if you have been practicing for many years and you still struggle, chances are, you focused a lot on steps and not the 95% that mattered the most. In this post, I will provide you with clear instructions on how to dance salsa properly. From the two key secrets you absolutely need in order to master the dance, to the unsuspected benefits of salsa dance.
Not only is Salsa dance not hard, it is also one of the most underrated activities which highly contributes to wellbeing. Indeed, salsa can takes care of your social wellbeing as you meet-up great people; but also your inner one. Additionally, it’s a good and fun way to lose weight. Oh, and did I mention that you can also meet pretty girls and guys who share at least one thing in common with you.
1. What we will cover?
We will first dive into the key secrets you need in order to master salsa dance. Then, we will revisit the origins of this dance style, its benefits for your wellbeing and even when applied to businesses. But first, let’s break down how your body perceives salsa music/dance. That way, it will be easier for you to understand why I recommend a certain path and order to follow.
2. Salsa dance to increase cognitive functions
One of the key underrated aspects of salsa is how different parts of our senses get to work all at once. It is not just about listening to music, or moving randomly. In fact, a coordination effort is required between:
– The sound received through your ears,
– Its interpretation by the brain,
– The message formulation, which is then sent to other parts of the body. This signals a certain set of movements need to occur
– And the occurrence of these movement in synchronisation with the music.
2.1. Causes of failure
The reason why many people do not go beyond one or two aspects of salsa dancing is because it is complicated to interpret everything that happens between the music, our brain, our body and our steps. Moreover, if you add to that, the manipulation of a partner’s body to create harmonization, you then realise that dancing salsa can be a very complex system. And that’s where the frustration lies. It’s also why I advised people who are not advanced dancers, to avoid salsa congresses. Especially, if what they are looking for is to improve their skills. Sure, in the congress you will be able to do what the trainer shows. However, as soon as you will go back home and try to re-enact those moves, you will have forgotten them all. Ultimately, you will end-up be discouraged and will give up.
2.2. Understand the multifaceted requirement
Because I wanted to be the best, I knew very early on that I could not do what everyone else was doing. I analysed carefully what was taught and how it compared with my description of dance which is the “ability to freely and willingly move and order our body in connection with our thoughts”. That’s why I spent the first two years primarily focused on the ability to listen to rhythm and body movement. In other words, to focus on the 95% of the salsa journey. And it does not matter whether you know 100 salsa moves or 1000. If you cannot identify a song patterns and command your body the way you want it; you will never be able to fully dance salsa.
2.2.1. Musical ears
The clave and the conga are the two musical instruments a salsa dancer should focus one. That’s because their patterns are directly connected to the movements of a dancer’s feet. Therefore, it is important to identify the pattern of at least one of them in a song. For my part, I focus primarily on the clave, because it is one of the base instrument of many afro-cuban dance styles.
🎶 Clave de rumba
For the clave, I have developed a 5-level musical hearing program that is free. It takes you step-by-step to the types of songs you should listen to and why. Indeed, if you jump into salsa music too quick, when in essence you cannot even spot where the clave is, you won’t dance on beat.
One of the most popular clave patterns in salsa is clave for rumba 3/2. That pattern is found heavily in Cuban Rumba music. Therefore, it make a lot of sense to study Cuban Rumba, even before approaching salsa. Moreover, if you watch rumba videos, you will realise that the dancers move according to that musical instrument. Which means it’s the perfect way to train both your ears and feet coordination. Finally, the other advantage of rumba music is that it only uses few instruments. Which therefore means, you can spot the clave notes more easily than in a pure salsa song; infected with tones of instruments.
As you can see from the pictures above, there are 2 ways to play the clave in rumba. Either the 2/3 or 3/2.
What these numbers mean is that on a basic rumba sequence, which consists of 2 measures of 4 beats each, you will hear the clave a number of 5 times.
● Rumba clave2/3
On the 1st measure you hear it twice (on beat 2 and 3). Then three times (on beat 5, the “&” in between 6/7, then the “&” after 8).
● Rumba clave 3/2
On the 1st measure you hear the clave three times (1, & between 2/3 and & just at the end of the 4th beat). On the second measure you will hear the clave twice on 6 and 7. Check-out the video for a practical explanation of the rhythm.
Once hearing is well developed, it’s time to turn our focus on body movements. Actually, both can happen conjunctly. But note, that we are not talking about salsa dance movements, but natural motions of the body to certain beats.
2.2.2. Body movement
This part is challenging because it requires you to become the full captain of your body and mind. Just like the navigator of a ship, it is imperative to order different parts of your body to do what you desire, when you want it and at the pace you want. I created many body movements videos. The one below is one that I use every day. There are many great reasons for this. First, I warm-up my body, then train every part to move the way I want. Secondly, I simultaneously educate my ears since I move to the rhythm. Lastly, it’s a great way to prevent injuries. So much so, that I use it before I ran, or kick boxing bags, or even practice yoga. Therefore, try and spend 10-20 minutes a day with body isolation/movements and you will see how it will improve your salsa game in the long run.
Only after you have absorbed this two concepts of body movements and good hearing for the music then you can focus more specifically on salsa steps.
2.2.3. Dance Steps
Once you sorted out the first two issues, then you can dive more into doing salsa steps. In fact, the reason why I say “dive more” is because with Cuban rumba you already do some salsa steps. You then realise the influence of this dance on salsa.
In the following videos, I go over few dance steps and the right technique to use.
We will see:
– Use the clave in a salsa song
– Move your body
– The key techniques to understand in order to move your body weight
– How do you lead a partner and what signals you give to her
🎶 A basic salsa dance step
I only use one dance step as I cover both the theoretical and practical part in the video below. I will just illustrate some of the issue’s dancers face with the steps and why.
There are 2 basic steps illustrated here. Each of them is executed over 2 measures (1 to 4 and 5 to 8). The first one is called “basic step”, and the second “turn”, as this is where the turn pattern will be initiated.
■ 1st basic
Your role is to step on 1st beat of the clave that you will hear (what is called dance on 1).
– You move forward on 1,
– Come back to centre on 3 with the anchoring help of the 2nd beat (2).
– Then you do the same thing backward with your opposite leg (5) and come back to centre on 8.
You must imagine yourself being held by two tight elastic ropes. One is in front of you, the other one in your back. As you try to escape forward, the rope behind you pulls you back. And as you try to go to the back, the front one does the same opposite job. If you think that way, you then realise you must bend the knee a bit and use your hips. If you just use your feet then you will be off-balance either forward or backward. Seen it many times with debutants.
For ladies, you do the exact opposite of what the man does, starting with your right foot backward on the 1st beat of the clave.
■ 2nd basic
For the second basic step, you both make a turn. The man does it on the 1st measure (1 to 3), while the lady goes on the second one (5 to 7). In order for her to spin properly; the man must give her the instruction. For that:
– You use your left arm (at head level) to create a clock wise circular motion.
– Because you also brought her right hand at head level, when you will create that motion (with the tips of your middle fingers) she will naturally follow.
Most men struggle to “give the turn order”. Just watch the video for explanations.
3. Where did Salsa dance come from?
Salsa dance took the world by storm 60 years ago. It started with the mass migration to the united states of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and habitants of other Latin American countries. These people brought with them their culture, food and music. Musicians such as Cheo Feliciano, Pacheco, Hector Lavoe or Celia Cruz greatly help spread the “fever” around in the seventies.
In reality, salsa dance has many roots. The one depicted above is more connected to NewYork style salsa since that’s where these groups members migrated to. However Cuban salsa dance (called casino) draws its root from the many varieties of cuban dance styles on the island.
3.1. Salsa dance and economic growth
There is even a connection between the adoption of salsa by a country and its economic development. The US in the seventies, then Europe followed by Japan in the 90s, and China at the beginning of the 20th century. It can even be argued that China now, not the US, is the hub of salsa dance. There is not a single day where cities like Shanghai go without a salsa dance party; sometimes more than two a night. With regular busy places such as JZ Latino at the Renaissance hotel , it is easy to see why.
3.2. Types of salsa dance
There are many styles of salsa dances. The purpose of this article is not to go over them extensively, as I believe one of the biggest problems of salsa today is the cataloguing into styles. Sometimes that classification can take on somewhat ugly forms. Indeed, partners might refuse to dance with one another because “they dance on two”, when the others “dance on 1”. But, if you want to know more about the different styles, check-out my Guide on Salsa Dancing.
What I would like to go over are the reasons why I believe salsa dance is overlooked as a great source for external and internal well-beings.
4. Salsa dance as a network tool
There are very few activities that can instantaneously create strong social networking as salsa dance can.
If you think about the term, it all lies on how close is your connection with the persons you network with. In fact, you would judge a networking event successful, if you created a good number of connections with different people. Likewise, it will be deemed unsuccessful, if that amount is low. Salsa dance solves this problem in one stroke since it involves very close contacts between human beings. Not only can two people connect with each other, but groups of people also can (casino rueda). Furthermore, the other great advantage of salsa dance is that it instantly breaks the ice. The festive and joyful music automatically creates relaxed minds and bodies; which leads to strong interactions. So much so that even horses join the party sometimes.
4.1. Salsa dance as a tool for business team work
It’s the first time I see these people with such happy faces
One of the key impediments of great team work in office is the lack of trust and openness to other individuals. When an activity such as salsa breaks down barriers, it is easy to see why it can be a great networking tool for businesses. In one of my programs, I implemented a casino Rueda salsa dance workshop with a company. The comment from the lady who bought the program for her company was “It’s the first time I see these people with such happy faces and communicating so easily. They just forget about hierarchy and levels”. I smiled when she said that because I already knew what the effects would be. But I guess not everyone really knows how powerful dance can be.
It is such a great networking tool that many couples are formed during salsa dance parties.
4.2. Salsa dance and the formation of couples
Unlike other kinds of parties, salsa events are more subdued and less loud. The setting is therefore suited for people who want to engage in conversations after dancing. Moreover, most of the people in these parties tend to be regulars. And that’s great, especially if you are a female who does not want to be harassed constantly, but might be open to a conversation with a gentleman. You might think “If I can’t dance how can I invite anyone to dance?”. My answer is “Unless you overcome that steps you will always be in the corner watching and never enjoying.” Furthermore, you will always find a few men/ladies who will accept to dance with you no matter your level. So, go and ask. I was asked hundreds of times and I never turned down anyone.
5. Salsa dance as well-being tool
5.1. Inner and Outer
The other aspect of salsa dance that might also be overlooked, is the positive effect it has on an individual well-being. There is nothing that can change someone’s mood faster than dance and especially salsa dance. When someone experiences a strong sense of inner wellbeing, his/her external body shows it off. A glow can be seen on the person’s face.
For example, I am able to dispose of the notion of time within seconds of starting to dance. All pains evaporate in instant. And I am transported into a dimension where my whole system synchronises to the tempo of the songs. The manipura chakra get stimulated and inspirations, ideas flow endlessly.
So much so that I would advise anyone who practices by himself/herself at home; to keep a notepad nearby. Indeed, ideas, about whatever you might try to solve will come up in flood.
6. Salsa dance to lose weight
Other than social networking and wellbeing, salsa dance can be used as a pleasurable way to lose weight. Pleasurable, since there are not that many activities that can help you lose weight without strenuous efforts. Take Cuban salsa for example. This dance has so many changes of rhythm, level and pace that it constitutes a great way to challenge endurance and resistance. This in turn help lose weight within a matter of weeks.
Rumba; which is part of Cuban salsa, is a very playful dance that involves strong use of our leg muscles. Done properly and long enough it constitutes an exercise that will definitely help you not only lose weight but build strong muscle.
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