A Guide to Learning How to Salsa

Stage 1-3: Concepts When Dancing With Partners

Stage 3: Concepts When Dancing With Partners
After we have focused on ourselves and the way we move we can move on to dancing with a partner. Salsa dancing is considered a social dance which means you are typically dancing with people not just yourself. It is also nonverbal which means you are not telling your partner what you plan to do next while dancing with them. The follower can be led by the leader by the way they move their arms, the way their body is positioned in relation to the follower, and by the direction the leader is looking. For the follower to nonverbally understand what the leader wants to do, proper usage of the upper body is needed. In this section we will discuss the bridge connection between the leader and follower, which is the open hold position.

Basic Positioning
First off, the lead's arms are bent at 90 degrees with the palms facing up and to the side of the body, while the follower's arms are also bent 90 degrees but with the palms down. The lead and follower are connected at the hands with an open-palm hold. This means that both should not curl their fingers to hold the partner's hands. If the leader wants to have a stronger hold on the follower the leader simple brings the thumb down on the follower's fingers. The leader should never bring the thumb over the follower's upper hand. Not only do the arms not be to the sides of the body and but also not at an angle from the body.

Follower's Forearm Are Parallel to The Ground
The follower's forearm should be parallel to the ground which means there should be enough distance between each person to fit an average size person between you. The purpose of having the follower's forearm parallel to the ground is so that the follower can "follow" the leaders" "lead."

Precedence goes to the follower for having the forearm parallel to the ground. If there is a height difference where the leader is taller then the leader must bring their arms down to keep the follower's forearms parallel. If the follower is taller than the leader must bring the hands up so that the follower's forearm maintain parallel. The follower has the burden of understanding what the leader wants to do so any thing that can be done to make that easier is important.

Referencing back to the basic steps, the lead starts off by stepping forward with the left foot while the follower steps back with the right foot. If everything goes well no one should be stepping on anyone's foot! After completing a full set of eight counts repeat the basics over and over. Each step for the basic coincides with the downbeat in the song and can only be properly explained in the classroom setting.

Leading & Following
Salsa dancing is not just about moving the feet but also moving the body as patterns are executed with the upper body. When not executing patterns the leader's upper body's motion is used to lead the follower on the basic steps. The leader will push and pull depending on the basic steps whereas the follower pulls and pushes in response the leader's actions. Very much like a bridge, both ends must be strong in order to maintain the frame that is the middle.

The leader pushes and pulls the follower's arms based on the movement of their feet. When the lead steps forward with the left foot, the left arm pushes forward. When the right foot steps back, the right arm pulls back. This will allow the follower to understand what your basic steps are. This is also the same when the leader steps back with the left foot on three, the leader pulls with the left hand.

Tension Between Partners
The follower's arm movements are opposite of what the lead does. When the lead pushes on the follower's right hand, the leader pushes back. When the leader pulls on the right hand, the follower should pull back. The follower's pushing and pulling are equal in pressure to what the leader applies. The result is an equal tension between partners that results in a quick response from the follower during pattern preparations, leads, or executions.

Once we understand how the proper basic steps go we can move on to learning the three fundamental movements to salsa dancing: turns, crossbody leads, and open breaks

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