Unless you were born Latino or blessed with twinkle toes, learning salsa in Quito or any other Latino country is a challenge in the beginning. It’s hard to keep track of your steps and your arms and your limbs will be like spaghetti flailing in all directions. But the best salsa dancer is not the one with the most moves or the best skills; it’s the one having the most fun. Embrace the awkwardness, enjoy yourself and remember the following tips, and you’ll become a good salsa dancer in no time.

Timing is everything

Whether you dance on 1 or on 2, you need to time your steps in order to break on the beat. This won’t come straightaway but once you’ve mastered the timing, everything else will flow and you’ll be able to have more fun with different accentuations in your movements in line with the music and the instruments being played.

Learn to laugh at yourself

Salsa classes in Quito — © JackF / iStock.
Salsa classes in Quito — © JackF / iStock.

Yes, it’s embarrassing when you get the steps wrong but you’re allowed to suck in the beginning. It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes so just laugh when you trip over your own feet and try to relax. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be. Look your partner in the eye and smile. They’re probably feeling just as self conscious as you so face your insecurities together.

Practice by yourself

What you learn outside the classroom is just as important as what you learn in the classroom. It’s all about getting to know your body and that can be hard when you’re trying to focus on your feet, your partner’s feet and what your teacher is doing all at the same time. Dancing by yourself when you’re feeling less self-conscious is a good way to consolidate what you’ve learned. And it’s when you can start adding a bit of attitude to your moves.

Get your salsa attitude on

More than just the moves, salsa dancing is all about attitude and confidence. If you believe you know what you’re doing, you’ll dance like you know what you’re doing. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell your reflection how awesome you are then practice the moves you’ve learnt in front of the mirror, trying out some different poses and experimenting with your dancing face to find your best one. Don’t let your inhibitions get the better of you. You’re a salsa star and you know it.

Listen to the music everywhere you go

Salsa musician — © Sofie Layla Thal / Pixabay.
Salsa musician — © Sofie Layla Thal / Pixabay.

If you’re able to recognize the different rhythms and breaks of salsa music then you’ll be better able to move in time to the beat so it’s important to tune your ear into the music. Turn on and crank up the salsa music wherever you are, whether you’re doing the washing up or waiting at the bus stop. Try improvising a few steps at the same time.

Hit up the salsa clubs

Salsa club in Quito — © Joerg Weingrill / Flickr.
Salsa club in Quito — © Joerg Weingrill / Flickr.

Ecuadoreans love to dance so there’s no shortage of dance clubs in Quito where you can go and get your salsa dance on. It’s all very well having lessons and practicing at home alone but the real test is getting out there and dancing with the locals. Try and go to a salsa club at least once a week, if not more. Have a couple of drinks and let loose on the dance floor. You can justify it to yourself by reminding yourself that you’re ‘training,’ not partying. Try to dance with as many different people as possible, including the pros that you’re too afraid to ask.

Dress up for the occasion

Salsa dancing in a bar — © JackF / iStock.
Salsa dancing in a bar — © JackF / iStock.

Dancing is like acting. Even if you’re not a confident person in everyday life, you can switch it on on the dance floor. To help you get into your salsa dancer character, dress for the role. Swap your comfy sneakers for a sexy pair of salsa shoes and a killer outfit to help you find the sensual salsa dancer inside of you.

Learn to follow and lead

Dancing is a conversation and it helps to see it from both sides. If you’re leading, remember you’re the leader but always try to adjust to your follow as she/he determines the pace and difficulty of the dance (don’t make her/him do a triple turn if she/he hasn’t mastered the basics). If you’re a follower, learn to surrender to the music and really try to connect with your partner. There should never be any pushing or pulling involved.

Got any other useful advice for salsa beginners? Share them with us in the comments section below.

Originally published on Ailola by Sophie Lloyd on December 24, 2018.