When I was young, I took my first Salsa class from a woman named Miss Sasha.
When she danced, I thought “Wow, her feet are fast!”
And of course, I had also seen my fair share of Salsa dancing on the television.
Over and over, I saw fancy dresses, high heels, long hair, marvelous partnering skills and of course… fast footwork.
It was intimidating then, and even more intimidating now that I’m older.
Before I took the first step to jump back into Salsa clubs and classes as an adult, I found myself wondering:
Can my body still make those quick steps? Will I feel confident enough moving in heels? Will I pick up partner skills quickly enough?
So if you are in the same spot as I am, or if you're totally new to Salsa dancing and eager to take your first class, read on.
I have some great tips for you on how to prep for your first Salsa class!
But first things first...
What is Salsa dance?
The name comes from the fact that different styles, different cultures, and different instruments are all mixed into one huge pot, creating a sauce, which in Spanish translates to Salsa.
Think “Guaguanco”, “Danzon”, “Cuban Son”, “Mambo”, and other forms of dance that came from Cuba, Haiti, Africa, and other cultures.
As the music and dances spread to New York, they also gained a lot of Puerto Rican influence.
Artists like the Fania All-Stars popularized Salsa music all over the U.S., and as the dance evolved, it incorporated a lot of Ballet, Jazz, and other dance styles into its movements.
Want a shortcut to start learning Salsa dance right at home? Check out our 7-day Beginner Salsa Program on STEEZY Studio! The first day is FREE – no credit card required. :)
Now, that you know the backstory...
Here’s how to prep for that first Salsa class:
1. Get familiar with Salsa music
You can dance salsa to any music that has great percussion or brass.
You can also dive into some classic songs from Cilia Cruz, Hector Lavoe, Tito Puente, and anyone from Fania All-Stars.
Because Salsa has different influences, people dance it differently to the music.
An important difference to know is that LA Style Salsa differs from the New York Style/Mambo.
LA style Salsa has that showy vibe to it, where dancers dip, flip, drop and do tricks. This style is a melting pot of Jazz, Hip Hop, and Ballroom, and it has fast footwork. In this style, dancing starts on the "1" beat and the performances are powerful and fast.
New York style Salsa is the image of elegance as the dancers flow ever so smoothly across the dancefloor, with movement being highly technical and controlled. Here, dancers start moving on beat "2", doing multiple spins and Afro Cuban movement without making it seem too rushed.
So, before you take class, check out a variety of Salsa music to get into the sway of things. In time, you will discover which style and music you enjoy the most.
2. Don’t be intimidated to go solo
Let’s nip this common myth in the bud right away: You do not need a partner to start dancing Salsa!
If you’re a beginner, it’s actually a good idea to learn the fundamentals on your own.
That way, you can work on your posture, hip movements, weight changes, and footwork before doing it all with a partner.
You can even practice doing “Shadow Dances”, where you’ll learn the arm placements and body movements of partner work while using objects or walls as an imaginary partner.
When you’ve got the basics down, you'll be more confident about moving on to partner dancing.
3. But… Be ready to spontaneously partner up
Sometimes in class, the teacher can decide to change things up and have everyone do some freestyle Salsa. Don’t panic!
It might be natural to shy away in class, but it’s the teacher’s way of wanting everyone to stop overthinking the steps, let go, and have friendly partner experiences.
Class should be a safe space to learn and make friends so put your best hip forward and don’t be scared to do some social mingling.
As you get ready for your class, remind yourself that even if you mess up during your first partner experience, you’re all just there to learn – not be the best, most perfect person in the room.
4. Wear the right clothing
Ladies, it is not required to wear heels while Salsa dancing.
You can totally ditch the heels at first and wear your comfy tennis shoes.
Then, as you begin to feel more practiced, feel free to pop on a low pair of heels.
You’re also not expected to dress like you’re on Dancing with the Stars during your class!
Even if your instructor prefers to dress up, you’re welcome to wear whatever makes you feel the most comfortable – leggings, breezy shorts, joggers, easygoing tops… it all works as long as you can see your body in the mirror.
But when you go out for a social event, if you feel confident enough, go all out with your outfit, your hair, your makeup and have fun!
5. Let go of comparing yourself
It’s true. Comparison is the thief of JOY. When you are just starting out, it’s easy to compare yourself to other dancers, whether you’ve seen them on social media, on the dance floor, or in a Salsa class.
Being inspired by your fellow Salsa dancers is a good thing, just make sure you don’t talk yourself down through constant comparison.
Instead, try to take a more realistic approach and give yourself time to learn.
Your journey. Your practice pace.
6. Check your hygiene!
If you are about to start off on your first partnering class, expect that you're going to get sweaty and be quite close to someone.
To avoid any awkward moments or self-consciousness, wear clean clothes, bring a mint, and have a towel ready to wipe any sweat if needed.
Don’t forget to bring any products you’ll need to freshen up after class too – you don’t want to miss out on any post-class outings because you feel too gross/sweaty after dancing.
After all, grabbing a drink or chatting after class with the other students can be a fantastic way to meet new people and connect with your classmates.
7. Take a few practice classes at home
Sometimes, we are super excited to try new things but don’t follow through because our fears get in the way.
If you really want to learn Salsa, but don’t feel ready to go to a class or club, you can get started with an online program on STEEZY studio.
Online classes are a great way for you to learn at your own pace, build up your confidence in the comfort of your home, and get access to top-tier Salsa dance teachers that might not be available in your city.
Then, when you’re finally ready to dance Salsa IRL, you’ve already boosted your skills and self-confidence
See you in class!