Thursday, March 5, 2015

Salsa Beginners Moves. Vol. 1 Ep. 1

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lead v/s Follow: 5 quick tips for a suave Salsa experience


1. Keep your leads lucid and distinct. What is easy to understand is easier to execute.
2. Leads need to be timely, not forceful.
3. Look at the dance from your partner’s perspective with respect to movement and direction; ‘her left, my right’ will put you on a collision course sooner or later.
4. Make a mental note of how your partner responds to cues. Start slow and improve upon what both can manage; discard movements that your partner clearly doesn’t understand.
5. Set your partner free. Shines are a good way to test how comfortable either partners are with musicality and free movement.


1. Be cognitive, not pre-emptive. Trying to guess the lead is just too speculative and it robs you of the time to use the music.
2. Let the music set you free. There is never just one way of interpreting the music/lead. Keep experimenting.
3. Give subtle cues to the partner if he/she is being too rigid or forceful.
4. Don’t let styling get in the way of your dancing. You need to make sure that your styling goes with the flow of the dance and does not catch your partner off guard.
5. While most men struggle with basic lead and timing, followers can communicate a change in rhythm and pace by adjusting the frame/body language or sometimes even through facial expressions. You can lead too, without the partner even realising. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lead v/s Follow

Looking at the traditional role of men as the “leaders” and women as the “followers” of the dance, how much freedom does the follower have within the framework of a given dance style to express the music and add her own interpretation?

The point I'm trying to get across is that the follower's role is not a passive one. I personally think that there is a subtle difference between simply following what is lead as opposed to understanding what musical elements (if any) that the leader is trying to express and responding to both the leader and the music. It's the difference between a monologue and a dialogue.

Different dance styles have different philosophies: for example the lead/follow dynamic in Tango is very different to the dynamic in Salsa. However, if the follower is simply following her partner then she is not really dancing because she is not moving in response to the music - she is moving in response to her partner's interpretation of the music.

So, once you reach a certain level of competency in any dance style, the notion that "the leader leads and the follower follows" becomes overly simplistic. There is however a skill to following which is different to leading - how else would you explain that some ladies are easier to lead (lighter on their feet, quicker to respond to your cues...)?

A great leader is one who creates an environment for their partner to feel comfortable, enjoy and express themselves, the same definition goes for a great follower.

Even though partner work is the mainstay of classes, leaders need to incorporate their own styling and give the followers freedom of interpretation. Until that happens, we will never change the 'leaders lead, followers follow' mentality.

Styling is and always will be ancillary to the partner work and should be driven by the music not by a need to look good/sexy/feminine.

There are three elements of a good dance - the leader, the follower and the music - and you won't have a good dance if one of the elements is suppressed. The leader initiates and invites, the follower interprets and 'puts her stamp on it'. We work with and play off each other and the music is what connects us.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Salsa Concepts: Reverse Cross Body Lead

For some reason, most of the basic (travelling) Salsa concepts favour movement from a single direction. The lady’s left and man’s right -- the movement for either gender may not necessarily be co-related.

I believe it is important for beginners to explore movement from either side of the ‘line’ of dancing; especially men. Women do get the opportunity to travel / turn across both sides, but generally movement for men remains lop-sided. Consciously creating patterns from either side can help men add at least 30% more variation to their partner-work and make them a lot more unpredictable (hopefully).

There isn’t any content available on the internet -- either via videos or literature -- on the Reverse Cross Body Lead (RCBL). Even in the classroom, most instructors don’t specifically focus on the RCBL, unless it is built into a pattern.

Here is an attempt to fundamentally break down the footwork for the RCBL. Rather than keeping the footwork (for men) as a mirror image to the Cross Body Lead (CBL), a variation has been attempted by yours truly.

How to:
For simplicity of understanding and execution, the RCBL is almost a mirror image of the CBL.

Women’s Footwork:
(1,2,3): Regular back basic
5: Step forward with left foot
6: Step forward with right foot
7: Pivot 180 degrees over the right shoulder and end with left foot next to the right

Men’s Footwork:
1: Step with left towards the lady (regular step)
2: Right foot shifts out to the left side (behind the left leg or even surpassing it as the case may be)
3: Left foot moves next to right. Ensure  you continue to face the lady; however, the frame / feet do not create any obstruction for the lady
5: Step back with the right foot (tagging the lady for the RCBL lead)
6: Shift the left foot (to the right) and attempt to get the feet back in to the line of dancing
7: Pivot 180 degrees on the left foot as you slide the right foot back (right foot finishes next to left)

This variation in footwork for men helps create a different angle for the lead (less predictability), makes the movement sharper (adds finesse), and assists in adding more push / pull variations (integrates concepts better).

There isn’t much to tinker around with the women’s footwork, considering the lead serves as a means to an end (execution).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Salsa Concepts: Cross Body Turn

The Cross Body Turn (CBT) or Cross Body lead with an inside turn is an extension of the CBL (Blog Post). The lady executes a travelling turn to the left (counter-clockwise) as the man leads her through his CBL footwork.

How to:

In terms of execution the CBT is relatively more challenging for the women as it builds upon the CBL, however for men the footwork remains the same as CBL (opportunity to bring in finesse).

Attached image helps visually understand the footwork for men and women.

Women’s Footwork:
(1,2,3): regular back basic
5: lady steps forward with left foot
6: a 90’ pivot to the left with the right foot
7: a 180’ pivot to the left (over the back) with the left foot
1: a 270’ pivot to the left (from the front) with the right foot landing back.

Ensure the momentum for the turn is generated on count 5 and just allow the body to follow through the rest of the counts.
Ensure the left foot steps straight on count 5 (extremely important to ensure the linearity of the execution)
Counts 6 and 7 are progressive steps. Ensure that the free (of weight) foot pivots with the travelling foot
Cut through the turn with the right foot (rather than swinging it across) to merge with the back basic on count 1 of the next bar of music.

Men’s Footwork:
Remains the same as CBL

Lead / Pointers: Connection- Men’s L to Lady’s R (lead remains the same irrespective of the connection)

Raise the hand up to the lady’s shoulder level by count 3 to clearly distinguish between a CBL and a CBT
A short forward tag on count 5 so that the lady starts crossing over to the other side.
Directional nudge to the lady’s left on count 6 (her left) to initiate the CBT. Allow for the fingers to roll with the connection, rather than using the entire arm to lead. Making the lead smoother and not imposing on the followers movement. Keep elbows relaxed.
Try and ensure the lady’s upper arm remain parallel to the floor while leading and the radius of the lead remains close to the lady’s head so that the distance covered by the lady while turning is minimal.
Follow through with the connection on count 7 as you gradually start bring hand back down at the waist level.